Transitioning your paycheck: Can you really retire?

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You hit that magic number of 20 years in the military. Congratulations! That's 7,300 days of service—we're guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,300 MREs and approximately 520 haircuts. Here's another number you might not be tracking: what you need in the bank to actually retire.

Here are 9 things to consider when calculating the nest egg you need for retirement, courtesy of Navy Federal Credit Union's Retirement Nest Egg Calculator:

1. Age at retirement

Age at which you plan to retire. This calculator assumes that the year you retire, you don't make any contributions to your retirement savings. So if you retire at age 65, your last contribution occurs when you are actually age 64. This calculator also assumes that you make your entire contribution at the end of each year. If you're hoping to really retire after military life, you'll need to adjust this number accordingly.

2. Household income

Consider your total household income—if you're married, this should include your spouse's income. Side hustles count, too.

3. Current retirement savings

Identify the total amount that you currently have saved toward your retirement. Include all sources of retirement savings such as 401(k)s, IRAs and Annuities.

4. Rate of return before retirement

Determine the annual rate of return you expect from your retirement savings and investments. Consider the after-tax rate of return if the majority of your retirement savings isn't in a tax-deferred account such as a 403(b), 401(k), 457(b), annuity or IRA. Know that the actual rate of return is largely dependent on the types of investments you select and can vary widely over time, especially for long-term investments.

5. Rate of return during retirement

Consider the annual rate of return you expect from your investments during retirement. Calculations here should also be after-taxes if the majority of your retirement savings isn't in a tax-deferred account such as a 403(b), 401(k), 457(b), annuity or IRA. Be mindful that this rate is often lower than the return earned before retirement due to more conservative investment choices to help insure a steady flow of income.

6. Expected income increase

Include the annual percent increase you expect in your household income.

7. Years of retirement income

Factor in the total number of years you expect to use your retirement income.

Pre-retirement income desired in retirement

Identify the percentage of your pre-retirement household income you think you'll need in retirement based on the household income earned during the year immediately before your retirement. You can change this amount to be as low as 40% and as high as 160%. The percentage should reflect an after-tax amount if the majority of your retirement savings isn't in a tax-deferred savings account such as a 401(k) or IRA.

9. Expected rate of inflation

As you may know, military retirement is adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – a common measure of inflation in the U.S. – to preserve the purchasing power of your retirement income. From 1925 through 2018, the CPI has a long-term average of 2.9% annually. Over the last 40 years, the highest CPI recorded was 13.5% in 1980. For 2018, the last full year available, the CPI was 2.2% annually as reported by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve.

So many factors go into determining how much of a nest egg you really need to retire. Are you dreaming of a tiny house somewhere in Montana or planning a luxurious life in southern Florida? No matter when you're able to retire or where, it's important to plan for the future.

Use resources like the Navy Federal Credit Union retirement nest egg calculator to get a leg up on retirement. Just like you learned in those 20 years of service, never skip leg day.

This post was presented by Navy Federal Credit Union.

1 This information is intended to provide general information and should not be considered tax advice. Please consult a tax professional for more information.