How to Create a Retirement Paycheck That Lasts

Planning a reliable retirement income stream can be tricky even for those who’ve saved successfully. These tools aim to help.
Liz Weston, CFP®
By Liz Weston, CFP® 
Edited by Rick VanderKnyff
How to create a retirement paycheck that lasts-story

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Saving and investing for retirement may actually be easier than deciding how to safely spend what you’ve accumulated.

Withdraw too much and you could run out of money. Withdraw too little and you might stint on some retirement pleasures you could actually afford. Taxes and Medicare premiums should be considered, too, since both could be inflated by the wrong withdrawal strategies.

Financial planners use powerful software to model various ways to tap retirement funds so they can recommend the best options for their clients. Recently, some companies introduced similar software that consumers can use to find the most tax-efficient, sustainable strategies.

I kicked the tires on a few of these products and found they were pretty impressive — but not foolproof. The programs won’t necessarily save you from yourself if you make certain mistakes, such as underestimating your life expectancy or claiming Social Security too early. Since mistakes could be irreversible, even the most avid do-it-yourselfer should consult with an expert — either the human advisors each service offers or a fee-only certified financial planner who specializes in guiding people through retirement decisions.

Schwab Intelligent Income

Schwab’s “retirement paycheck” option, which launched in January, is an extension of its robo-advisor, Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, which invests using computer algorithms. Schwab Intelligent Income uses hundreds of market simulations to analyze how accounts enrolled in its robo-advisor might perform and to project how much retirees can afford to withdraw each month. The service also advises which accounts to tap and when, and factors in users’ tax brackets, required minimum withdrawals and how their money is distributed among taxable, tax-advantaged and tax-free accounts. Users can set up automatic transfers so the money is deposited at regular intervals into their chosen accounts.

Schwab doesn’t charge management fees for the robo-advisor or the retirement income service. Schwab also offers a premium service that includes human advice. For a $300 setup fee and $30 a month, Schwab Intelligent Portfolio clients can get unlimited access to a certified financial planner and an online tool to create a customized financial plan that includes other sources of income, such as Social Security and pensions.

Income Strategy

Like the other services, Income Strategy suggests what accounts to tap when and how much to withdraw. But the tool, which debuted last year, also offers seemingly infinite ways to tweak and compare strategies. And you don’t have to move your money — Income Strategy works no matter where your accounts happen to be.

If you’re the type who creates spreadsheets to determine how much of your traditional IRA to convert to a Roth each year to avoid triggering Medicare income-related adjustment amounts — or if you understand what those words even mean — then Income Strategy may be right up your alley.

If the above paragraph is Greek to you, your learning curve may be a little steep. You can, however, start with a free tool that asks you a few questions, then issues a report to give you an idea of how Income Strategy can help you “get more and keep more” of your retirement funds. If you decide to proceed with the main tool and get stuck, Income Strategy has specialists who, for an hourly fee, can guide you through the process. Or you can opt for subscription packages that provide even more help, up to and including managing your money for you.

The basic subscription is $20 a month, but numbers geeks likely will want to upgrade to the $50 “premier” subscription for more flexibility. A “premier bundle” for $1,500 includes a year’s premier subscription plus an hourlong training session, multiple consultations and an annual review. For an asset management fee starting at 0.8% (and dropping for portfolios over $1 million), Income Strategy’s affiliated registered investment advisor will take over investing your money and implementing your plan.


Kindur, which launched last year, offers a free tool to estimate your retirement costs (including health care), see how much income you’ll need to cover essential and optional spending, recommend when to collect Social Security, then calculate how long your money is likely to last.

For $99 a year, Kindur’s SmartDraw product can create a personalized withdrawal plan that includes all your accounts plus an annual review by a certified financial planner. Two levels of premium services including more tools and more frequent check-ins are also available.

If Social Security and pensions won’t cover your basic expenses, Kindur recommends guaranteeing more income using a commission-free income annuity it created with insurance partner American Equity. Kindur also offers investment management for 0.5% annually, a service that includes SmartDraw as well as access to a certified financial planner.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

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