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Only Relying on Social Security in Retirement? Why It's Time to Reconsider, and Try This Instead.

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Social Security benefits are something many future retirees look forward to. After all, getting a guaranteed check from the government each month that’s protected against inflation may seem like it will provide a lot of security.Unfortunately, if you are planning on this money being your only source of retirement income, it’s very likely you’re going to experience a lot less security and a lot more hardship than you’d expect. Here’s why you absolutely should not expect to live on Social Security alone β€” along with some tips on how to build a supplementary source of income that can make your golden years great.
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This is the big problem with relying on Social Security alone

Anticipating that Social Security can be your only source of support is going to get you into trouble because you’re asking your benefits to do something they aren’t supposed to do. These retirement benefits were intended to make up one of three legs on a three-legged stool. A pension and savings were the other two legs. Trying to build the foundation of your retirement on one leg alone is not going to work out very well.

Your benefits are designed to replace around 40% of pre-retirement income, and because the benefits formula is progressive, they replace even less than that for higher earners. The average monthly benefit at the start of 2024 was just $1,907, which means the typical retiree would have an income of around $22,884 from Social Security. Most people really can’t live comfortably on that income level.

You don’t want to struggle to survive on a small fraction of what you made while working, so you should explore other solutions to have a much more enjoyable retirement with plenty of money in the bank.

Investing can provide the security you need

If you don’t want to spend your retirement worrying about an empty bank account, you should take advantage of the tools that are available to you to help make sure that doesn’t happen. Specifically, you should seriously consider putting money into a 401(k) or an IRA and making long-term investments.Both a 401(k) and an IRA are tax-advantaged retirement plans. When you invest, you get to take a tax deduction in the year of your contribution. If you are in the 22% tax bracket and put $1,000 into either account, you’d save as much as $220 on your taxes. The $1,000 contribution you put into your account would reduce your take-home after-tax income by just $780.If you have a workplace 401(k) with a company match, your employer might also contribute when you do. Some people get a 100% match up to a certain percentage of their salary. If you put in $1,000, your company might do the same. Others get a smaller match, like 50% of their contributions, but it’s still essentially free money.Once you put your money into these accounts, you must buy assets. For many people, purchasing an S&P 500 index fund is a great, simple approach. This is a fund that tracks the performance of around 500 large U.S. stocks. You can find dozens of them with low expense ratios. Put your money in, leave it alone, and reasonably expect to earn a 10% average annual return over the long term, as that’s what the S&P 500 has consistently returned.If you take this step, invest $1,000 a year in your 401(k) or IRA for 30 years, and earn those 10% returns, you’d end up with $163,836.05. If you had a $1,000 employer match to add on top of that and invested $2,000 a year for 30 years, you’d have $327,672.09. The more you invest, the bigger your balance grows.The money you acquire in your retirement plan over time can supplement Social Security, so you have the funds you need. The sooner you start investing, the faster your money can begin growing, so make a plan today to ensure that Social Security isn’t your sole support source. You won’t regret it.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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