How To Retool Your Retirement Plan In The Midst Of COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the economy hard, and people who are nearing retirement or already retired are feeling the stress.

“COVID-19 has caused a lot of retirees and those approaching retirement to rethink their plan for retirement,” says Dennis Notchick, a certified financial planner for Stratos Wealth Advisors ( “Falling interest rates, massive volatility in the stock market, and stifled economic growth are having a massive effect on psychology.”

“A plan created years ago may not be as efficient when interest rates were much higher and the economy was in better shape. Stress testing your current retirement plan adapted to the post-COVID-19 world can show if you’re positioned to weather this storm or in need of an update.”

Notchick suggests the following tips to re-evaluate a retirement plan and perhaps retool it to withstand the effects of COVID-19:

Take precise inventory of expenses. “Sometimes people don’t realize how much they are actually spending,” Notchick says. “When they lay it out, they’re shocked. For accurate retirement income planning you must have good data to understand where the money goes each month –everything it takes to live, plus discretionary expenses. A dollar saved is a dollar earned and is more important now that ever.”

Check asset location and effects on taxes. “Tax planning in retirement is critical to understand,” Notchick says. “It’s about knowing how the different accounts are taxed in conjunction with other income streams like Social Security benefits, rental income, pensions, etc. A savings account will be taxed differently than a Roth IRA, which will be different than a 401(k), or SEP IRA. Another important point to remember is that dividends, interest and capital gains may not be taxed equally, some can be taxed as high as your ordinary tax rate, and some may be completely tax free. Income tax planning in retirement will expose any tax-planning missteps.”

Bridge the retirement income gap. Notchick points out the need to tailor retirement plans for the inevitable costs of aging, some health related as well. Income diversification ensures a strong, well-built plan. “If you have an income shortfall in retirement, where will that come from?” Notchick asks. “It may make sense to use a variety of income sources like dividends, capital gains and income from an annuity.”

Re-assess your risk tolerance. “Some investors may have been complacent over the past year; markets kept going up and nobody worries about markets going up.” Notchick says. “COVID-19 changed that, not only is there more inherent risk in the stock market, but because of the zero interest-rate policy enacted by the Federal Reserve, interest-rate risk is high. When rates move back up, bond prices will go down. This has also caused more risk-taking because the interest rates are so low on bonds of all maturities and when you take inflation into account, you are actually going backwards.”

Ask these questions. “Does fear of loss or stability keep you up at night? At this stage of your life, how much risk do you need to achieve your goals? Failing to plan is planning for failure,” Notchick says. “This applies to all aspects of life, including retirement.”

According to Notchick, Holistic financial planning for retirement ensures all parts of the financial plan are working together – investments, taxes, estate planning, etc. Notchick says. The pandemic has made the picture murky for some in retirement, but an updated retirement roadmap will allow you to get to your retirement destination with clarity. If you want to start or update your will and estate plan, it is recommend to seek the assistance of an estate lawyer or a will attorney to minimize the risk of legal complications for you and your dependents.

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