Don’t Let The 4 D’s Derail Your Retirement

David Treece, MBA, AIF®, CLTC® |

While retirees have vastly different ideas about how they will spend their retirement years, nearly all share a single goal: to maintain their desired standard of living throughout retirement. Yet, circumstances and events, such as debt, divorce, disability, and death can quickly derail even the best-laid plans. While you can’t always control what may lie ahead, you can take steps to better prepare for any challenging circumstances you may encounter.

Debt, Divorce, Disability, & Death

1. Debt: Carrying high balances on credit cards, mortgages, auto and personal loans, or co-signing on loans for family or friends can put your retirement income, and lifestyle, at risk. To help minimize the impact of debt in retirement, consider:

  • Taking an aggressive approach to pay down credit card balances before you retire
  • Downsizing if a large mortgage is weighing you down
  • Building up emergency savings as you pay down debt to avoid repeating the cycle of debt

2. Divorce: Divorce rates continue to climb among older Americans, with 36% of U.S. divorces attributed to those age 50 or older.1 If you’re considering or have already filed for divorce:

  • Locate and make copies of all financial account information and statements for both individually titled and jointly held accounts and assets owned
  • Understand your rights regarding Social Security benefits and retirement account assets
  • Include a financial professional on your team, along with your divorce attorney and accountant

3. Disability: An accident, injury, or medical condition can result in forced early retirement, a reduction in income, and unplanned healthcare costs. That makes it important to:

  • Have disability insurance during your working years to help bridge the gap to retirement
  • Ensure your retirement income strategy accounts for healthcare costs in retirement that may not be covered by Medicare, such as long-term care services

4. Death: In addition to the emotional toll, the death of a spouse can have a substantial impact on the surviving spouse’s income in retirement.

  • Consider the impact that your Social Security claiming strategy may have on your spouse before you begin taking retirement benefits
  • If you’re entitled to a pension benefit, choosing the right distribution option can be critical for protecting your spouse after you’re gone
  • Ensure all estate planning documents are in place and up to date

If you’d like to learn more about how a comprehensive strategy can help protect against these and other retirement risk factors, schedule a time to talk.

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1 Susan L Brown, PhD and I-Fen Lin, PhD, “The Graying of Divorce: A Half Century of Change.” NIH, 6 APR 2022,

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