How To Create A Retirement Income Stream

During your working years, your largest income stream is generally from employment. When you retire, however, your income will likely need to come from a variety of sources, such as retirement accounts, after-tax investments, Social Security, pensions or even continued part-time work.

For those looking to create a retirement income stream, there are a variety of strategies available depending upon your specific income needs and lifetime goals. Two simple retirement income strategies include the total return approach and the bucket approach.

Total Return Approach

The total return approach is probably the best-known strategy. With this approach, assets are invested with a focus on diversification, using a portfolio of investments with a varied potential for growth, stability and liquidity, based on your time horizon, risk tolerance and need for current and future income. There are three stages withing this approach.

  • Accumulation phase. During peak earning years, the objective is to increase total portfolio value through long-term investments that offer growth potential.
  • Pre-retirement phase. As you approach retirement this should include a gradual move toward a more balanced growth and income-based portfolio, with an increased allocation toward stable and liquid assets as a means of preserving your earnings.
  • Retirement phase. Once retired, maximizing tax-efficient income while protecting against principal decline may result in a portfolio heavily weighted toward income-producing liquid assets.

The benefit of adopting the total return approach is that, as a rule, the portfolio should outperform one that is heavily weighted toward income generation over a longer time frame. The largest disadvantage of this approach is that it takes discipline.

Bucket Approach

This approach behaves similarly to the total return approach throughout the accumulation phase, but as you enter pre-retirement, you divide your assets into smaller portfolio “buckets” with each holding investments geared toward different time horizons and targeted to meet different needs. There are three common bucket types based upon specific needs.

  • Safety bucket. This bucket is set up to cover a period of roughly three years and focuses on relatively stable investments, such as short- to intermediate-term bonds, CDs, money market funds, and cash. This portfolio is designed to cover your needs and avoid tapping into the next two buckets when markets are down, since the average bear market historically lasts less than three years.
  • Income bucket. This bucket should focus on seven years of income needs and is designed to generate retirement income while preserving some capital over a full market cycle. This bucket typically includes assets with a focus on distributing income while still providing some growth potential – such as high-quality dividend-paying stocks, real estate investment trusts or high-yield bonds.
  • Growth bucket. This bucket is used to replace the first two buckets after 10 years and beyond and contains investments that have the most potential for growth, such as non-dividend paying equities. Though holding a higher risk profile, this portfolio has a longer time horizon this more time to make up short-term losses.

Replacing your paycheck in retirement takes planning. To better understand which option works best for you, we invite you to schedule time with one of our Income Specialists.

Connect with an advisor in your area to find out if your retirement is on track.