Is an Interest-Only Retirement Possible?

Feb 15, 2024 By Susan Kelly

When it comes to retirement plans, typically, what is advertised as the ideal option is an interest-only source of income. In principle, it appears easy. You put your savings into the form of interest-paying assets. The interest you earn is the money you'll spend when you reach retirement age. Suppose you're retiring with an investment of $1 million and put it in fixed-income investment portfolios that earn 6 percent annually. This amounts to $60,000 per year in interest. Add Social Security as well as a pension if you're fortunate. In the event of your death and your spouse survives, the inheritors will receive the whole $1 million you began with. What's more ideal? In the end, there are some major flaws in this strategy. Below, we will address these and some of the smart strategies to overcome them.

The Principal Principle

In the beginning, it's interest only. The principal should remain far from reach. Consider this as the primary principle. You must have the full amount of your principal balance to generate income, as a decreasing principal balance can result in an income decline. Let's suppose you begin your interest-only plan with $1 million. You need to invest $30,000 on a brand new car or roof repair. Then you're left with $970,000 of principal. In the end, your 6% return on investment will yield $58,200 annually in interest earnings instead of $60,000 yearly.

If you do not reduce your spending by $1,800 and continue to spend $60,000 per year, your principal will continue to decline and will continue to do so each year throughout your life. In the second year, the $970,000 principal decreases to $968,200. In the third year, it is $966,400 and so on.

When Interest-Only Works

A strategy of interest-only can be effective for those with extra capital. Let's use our previous scenario of a $1 million savings to fund retirement, earning 6% per year. If your need for supplemental income is $55,000 annually, you will require an additional $917,000 to earn your income. There's an additional $83,000 capital to cover emergencies or irregular expenses. The first thing to consider is the yield you'll need to achieve. If you require to earn $25,000 annually and have $500,000 invested then divide 25,000 times $500,000 (25 500) to calculate 0.05 which is 5% as your cash flow requirements. Also, you'll need to take into consideration the tax consequences as well as whether the investments you have are in a tax-deferred savings account or not. Certain types of fixed income securities might or may not be suitable.

Shopping for the Right Yield

After you've identified the amount of yield you'll need, you can begin to research. Although a fixed-income bond could yield less than what you want, it's still a viable option for an overall portfolio. To increase your portfolio yield, you can consider various types of bonds, like corporate, agency, and foreign bonds.

The bottom line is that investors should remain aware of the risks associated with every type of bond, such as the risk of default, interest rate risk, inflationary risk, risk of events, and the potential for large price swings. There is a chance of losing money when you purchase the Treasury Bond if you sell it incorrectly. Alongside diversifying the kinds of bonds you have in the portfolio, you could and should buy bonds with different maturation dates. This is known as laddering. This method helps mitigate some of the risks mentioned above by periodically releasing funds for reallocation.

Mutual Funds and Interest-Only

Certain investors opt for mutual funds to implement their interest-only strategies. However, this may not be the best option if returns on interest are inconsistent. In theory, it can succeed when the returns are consistent and predictable. But as bonds age, the interest payouts by a bond mutual fund do not always remain the same.

If interest rates decrease, the chance is that you'll be forced to sell the shares of your mutual fund, which is similar to a systemic withdrawal plan which is in breach of the fundamental principle. While investing in bonds, mutual funds are less difficult than constructing a portfolio of fixed-income securities that offer the same advantages.

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