Amid the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, many older Americans are retiring earlier than expected. Whether you've lost your job or you feel uncomfortable returning to the office, you may be facing this prospect.
If you're getting ready to leave the workforce, there are some things you can do to prepare. Check your retirement accounts, calculate early withdrawal penalties, and consider whether you need to take part-time work. If necessary, consider hiring a CPA who can help you navigate your early retirement options.
1. Calculate your monthly expenses
Many of your financial obligations won't end after you retire, so you should take time to determine your essential budget expenses. Some of them may include:
- Housing (rent or mortgage)
- The costs of ownership, such as insurance and maintenance
- Transportation (such as car insurance, loan payments and gasoline)
- Cellphone and internet bill
- Health care
- Life insurance
- Debts such as credit card balances
If you consider entertainment an essential expense, add that to your budget. Check your credit card statements from the past three to six months to help you understand your true average budget.
2. Work part-time until you can take full retirement
If you don't have enough money to sustain you during retirement, you may be able to start a part-time job. Those who reach full retirement age in 2020 can earn as much as $18,240 working part-time while withdrawing Social Security benefits.
You could also pare down your work options instead of taking early retirement or change how you work until you're ready to retire. Almost a third of Americans are now self-employed. If you lost your job or you're looking for a change, consider joining the gig economy. This route can help you generate income until you retire, or even serve as your source of additional income post-retirement.
Working for yourself does come with some drawbacks. You'll need to pay self-employment taxes, for example, which can get complicated.
Self-employed people also lose employer-sponsored health care coverage. You'll need to secure your own health insurance if you don't yet qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. That means slotting out a few hours to research available options.
3. Review the strength of your retirement accounts
Once you have a good idea of how much you spend each month on essentials, investigate how much money you'll have available after you retire. Your calculation should include your savings, investments, retirement accounts and potential Social Security income.
Pay attention to your retirement and Social Security income potential. Retirement accounts and most pension plans will have a penalty for early retirement. Most will allow early retirement but will have special rules for when you can take that early retirement.
Qualified retirement accounts
The IRS imposes a 10% tax on early distributions of qualified retirement accounts. This category includes any 401(a), 401(k), 403(a), 403(b) and all IRAs. The minimum age is 59 ½ for most accounts, but some special rules apply to different plans and retirement situations. You might be able to take the full amount at age 55, or even age 50 for qualified public safety employees.
Social Security has its own special rules for early retirement. Instead of paying an additional tax, the federal government reduces your Social Security income. You can also retire and draw benefits as early as age 62, but with a 30% reduction in the amount you would receive versus taking retirement at your normal retirement age. The "normal" retirement age varies by year of birth but is currently set to 67 for people born after 1960.
Consequently, the max Social Security retirement age is 70. You'll get an 8% credit for each year you delay retirement. But if drawing these benefits early is necessary for your survival, it's a good option to consider.
Thankfully, investment accounts don't carry early withdrawal penalties. If you plan to divest some money from an investment account to help with early retirement, make sure you're ready to pay capital gains tax on your earnings. Capital gains will not likely exceed more than 15% for most people. High-income earners will pay 20%. The IRS also notes there are special situations that warrant a tax rate higher than 20%.
Note that early retirement may also mean divesting yourself of volatile investment holdings earlier than expected. This could mean increasing the percentage of your investments into bonds and reducing the percentage you have in stocks.
4. Hire a CPA
A good CPA will help you figure out how to retire early and whether it makes sense for your situation.
Long-term planning is always essential in retirement at any stage. With proper planning, cutting unnecessary expenses and taking on additional work where needed, you may be able to exit the workforce much faster and easier than you anticipated.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.
© 2022 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.