Successful Investor tips for developing a winning retirement income strategy

It’s important to develop a retirement income strategy that fits your particular investing needs. Still, all investors following the Successful Investor approach can benefit from these top tips.

A successful retirement begins with a successful retirement income strategy.

One of the things that investors of all ages fear is that they won’t have a good financial plan in place so that they have enough retirement income to live on once they’ve stopped working.

Here are some ways to ease that anxiety:


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Retirement Income Strategy: Base your retirement planning on a sound financial plan

Here are the four key variables that your retirement income strategy should address to ensure you have sufficient retirement income:

  • How much you expect to save prior to retirement;
  • The return you expect on your savings;
  • How much of that return you’ll have left after taxes;
  • How much retirement income you’ll need once you’ve left the workforce.

Most accountants or tax preparers can do the math for you, based on numbers you provide. However, coming up with realistic numbers is the hard part because that depends on your personal lifestyle preferences.

Retirement Income Strategy: In retirement, even out your income with your spouse’s income, to lower overall taxes. Here’s how:

  1. Have the higher income spouse pay the household bills: The easiest way to even out income between two spouses is to have the higher-income spouse pay the mortgage, grocery bills, medical costs, insurance and other non-deductible costs of family life.
  2. Set up a spousal RRSP: Registered retirement savings plans, or RRSPs, are a form of tax-deferred savings plan designed to help investors save for retirement. RRSP contributions are tax deductible, and the investments grow tax-free.
  3. Pay interest on your spouse’s investment loans: If the lower-income spouse takes out an investment loan from a third party, such as a bank, the higher-income spouse can pay the interest on that loan.

Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) are a great long-term retirement income strategy

Converting your RRSP to an RRIF is usually the best of three alternatives at age 71. That’s because RRIFs offer more flexibility and tax savings than annuities (see the pros and cons of annuities on TSI Network) or a lump-sum withdrawal (which in most cases is a poor retirement investing option, since you’ll be taxed on the entire amount in that year as ordinary income.

Like an RRSP, a RRIF can hold a range of investments. You don’t need to sell your RRSP holdings when you convert—you just transfer them to your RRIF.

When you hold a RRIF, you must withdraw a minimum each year and report that amount for tax purposes. (You may withdraw amounts above the minimum at any time.) Revenue Canada sets your minimum withdrawal for each year according to a schedule that starts at 5.28% of the RRIF’s year-end value when the account holder is aged 71. It reaches 6.82% at age 80, and levels off at 20% at age 95.

If you have one or more RRSPs (registered retirement savings plans), you’ll have to wind them up at the end of the year in which you turn 71.

Retirement Income Strategy: What returns to expect from your retirement planning

As for the return you expect from your retirement investing, it’s best to aim low. If you choose to use bonds for retirement, assume you will earn the current yield; don’t assume you can make money trading in bonds.

Over long periods, the total return on a well-diversified portfolio of high-quality stocks that follow the Successful Investor approach runs to as much as 10%, or around 7.5% after inflation. However, aim lower in your retirement planning—5% a year, say—to allow for unforeseeable problems and setbacks.

Above all, it’s important to remember that while finances are important, the happiest retirees are those who stay busy. You can do that with travel, golf or sailing. But volunteering, or working part-time at something you enjoy, can work just as well.

One thing we encourage all investors to do is perform a detailed study of how you spend your money now. Then, you analyze your findings to see what personal expenses you can cut or eliminate. This too can have fringe benefits, especially if it helps you break unhealthy habits. You may be surprised at how much you’re spending and how much more you could be saving for retirement.

Bonus Tip: Sticking with a conservative investing strategy that follows our Successful Investor philosophy is key to making the safest investments for retirement

Low-risk investments equate to safer investments. For conservative investing, focus on investing in high-quality stocks that offer hidden value.

Over long periods, the total return on a well-diversified portfolio of high-quality stocks runs to as much as 10%, or around 7.5% after inflation. Aim lower in your retirement planning—5% a year, say—to allow for unforeseeable problems and setbacks.

By following our conservative Successful Investor approach, you can attain what we’d call the best of all possible investment worlds. When times are good, it can be extraordinarily profitable. But during the inevitable market downturns, it cuts your losses and leaves you well positioned to profit again in the inevitable recovery.

What does your retirement income strategy entail? Has our advice helped in your process of building retirement income? Share your experience with us in the comments.

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