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How to Stretch Your Retirement Savings

Author: Ethan Davis

We've all heard the term nest egg in reference to our retirement savings. But what does it actually mean for your personal situation? Will you deplete it, or will you nurture it to generate income that lasts throughout your retirement?

The conventional wisdom is that retirement investors need to focus on accumulating money—the proverbial nest egg—to spend later on. The challenge with this is that it misses what we really need: an income stream that can provide you with the life you imagine in retirement.

The traditional way of thinking about a nest egg may explain why most Americans are overly optimistic about whether their retirement savings will last. Our 2015 Global Investor Pulse survey has found that they may be in for a surprise: When it comes to retirement income, they're likely to see a shortfall.

Emerging Cracks in Retirement

Why is focusing on an income stream so critical? The biggest reason is an emerging challenge: our increasingly longer lives. A 65-year-old man today can expect to live to age 84, and a 65-year-old woman could live to 86, according to the Social Security Administration. My colleague Russ Koesterich calls this a champagne problem. The extra years are a blessing, but from a planning perspective, your money will need to stretch longer than ever before.

If you're wondering if you'll have enough retirement income, you're not alone. We asked more than 4,000 Americans their thoughts on retirement. Although 74 percent said they expect to be financially secure, and 56 percent are confident they'll have the income they will need, the data tell a different story. There's a large gap between where they stand to be and where they hope to be.

What Investors Expect in Retirement

The Survey Numbers

Those surveyed said they expect to need, on average, $45,500 annually in retirement. This same group of people has currently saved about $136,200. But for a 55-year-old, that amount will generate only $9,067 per year in retirement. That's a shortfall of over $36,000 per year.

And even though nearly two-thirds of them agree a 401(k) is a good way to save, almost as many (60 percent) also see Social Security as a critical means of support. But Social Security benefits might not fill that gap. The average monthly benefit was just $1,335, or about $16,000 a year, as of June 2015.

Closing the Savings-to-Income Gap

So how do you close the gap? Take a close, hard look at your retirement savings. Then ask yourself if what you've saved will last. Here are four guidelines to help you do just that:

Know Your Numbers

Before you can figure out where to go and how to get there, you need to know where you are now. We have several tools and strategies that can help you estimate your retirement income based on your current savings, calculate future expenses, and make the most of your retirement income.

Save Some More

If you are not already maxing out your work 401(k), try to set aside more, especially if your employer matches part of your contributions. If you don't have the option of a 401(k) or have reached your annual contribution limit, then invest as much as you can in an IRA. If you're 50 or older, you can take advantage of catch-up contributions.

Stay Invested

Our minds are often set to save when they should be set to invest. As a result, too many Americans, 65 percent our survey found, keep their money in cash-based accounts, which are earning next to nothing. With the potential of living longer, you should consider keeping some of your retirement investments in growth mode.

Try an Encore Performance

Retirement doesn't mean the end of productivity. Consider part-time work, a new business, or an encore career where you can continue to benefit society and potentially leave a legacy. And by delaying your Social Security claims beyond age 62, you can receive more in that monthly check.

There's no question that yesterday's retirement is quite unlike the retirement of tomorrow. Longer life is truly a blessing. If you want your nest egg to last you through the years, keep focus on a sustainable income stream.

Heather Pelant is Head of BlackRock Personal Investing for BlackRock. She is a regular contributor to The Blog.

More from BlackRock:

3 Steps for Better Retirement Saving and Investing Habits

How to Decode Your Future Retirement Income

How to Go From Saving to Investing

This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The opinions expressed are as of November 2015 and may change as subsequent conditions vary. The information and opinions contained in this post are derived from proprietary and nonproprietary s deemed by BlackRock to be reliable, are not necessarily all-inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. As such, no warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions (including responsibility to any person by reason of negligence) is accepted by BlackRock, its officers, employees or agents. This post may contain forward-looking information that is not purely historical in nature. Such information may include, among other things, projections and forecasts. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. Reliance upon information in this post is at the sole discretion of the reader.

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