That’s the conclusion of a new study that finds Americans who retire when markets peak often face trouble.
Running out of money in retirement is the biggest fear facing investors in the current economic environment, according to Millionaire Corner research, but a new study from the University of Missouri indicates that investors who retire at market highs often face trouble down the road.
“Potential retirees often will first meet their targeted retirement savings goals during an up market and will be tempted to retire at that point,” Rui Yao, an assistant professor of personal financial planning, said in a statement. “The problem with this strategy is that the economy runs in cycles, meaning that after a peak, the market will take a downturn.”
People who retire shortly before the markets head south risk significant losses to retirement savings, Yao said. She added, “This could result in many retirees outliving their retirement savings and facing financial hardships toward the end of their lives.”
What’s the alternative? Yao recommends against retiring immediately after achieving retirement savings goals, especially during economic boom years. Rather, she advises waiting and retiring during a downturn, as long as investors have saved enough to enjoy a comfortable standard of living. The strategy allows retirement savings to grow beyond initial targets as the markets begin to recover, enabling retirees to build financial cushions to weather future down cycles.
Market fluctuations can have an even more powerful effect when both members of a married couple choose to retire at the end of an up market, according to Yao, who found that working Americans were more likely to retire when they had a retired spouse.
“It makes sense that many married couples would want to retire around the same time,” Yao said. “However, if both spouses decide to retire close to the end of an up market, the household would have little to no cushion should their retirement portfolios be affected by an economic downturn.”
What’s the biggest take-away of Yao’s study? Investors need a better understanding of the financial challenges they are likely to face in retirement, she said, and may benefit from seeking professional retirement planning advice.