Understand the challenges you’ll face

Withdrawing from your retirement nest egg is a whole different animal than saving for it. That’s because the risks retirees face are fundamentally different. It’s not just about protecting your assets from market volatility. It’s about the possibility of outliving savings, inflation, withdrawing money in a down market, and more. Here, we’ll help you understand the potential headwinds, so you can help keep your retirement financially on track.

By the numbers

Lifespans are Longer than you Might Think

  Man aged 65 Woman aged 65
80% chance 80 years 82 years
50% chance 88 years 90 years
25% chance 93 years 96 years

Source: TIAA Mortality Tables, 2020

Longevity risk

Consider planning for income you can't outlive

People are living longer than ever before. This increases the potential risk of outliving your retirement savings. Think about protecting yourself by creating a guaranteed income stream that you cannot outlive through a fixed annuity to help cover essential expenses. This is also known as creating a retirement income floor.  Please note that guarantees are based on the claims-paying ability of the issuing company.

How to build a retirement income floor

Step 1

Figure out what your essential needs are and how much you will need to cover these expenses each month.

Step 2

Determine how much is covered by your income sources, such as Social Security or defined benefit pensions.

Step 3

If there's a gap, consider annuitizing a portion of your savings into income you can't outlive.

Step 4

Allocate the balance of your savings appropriately to help pay for discretionary expenses while helping keep pace with inflation.

Sequence of return risk

Learn about the risk of bad timing

The market’s performance in the early years of retirement can significantly impact the longevity of your investment portfolio. This is known as sequence of returns risk—the chance that your investments will provide low or negative returns at the beginning of retirement when your portfolio is at its largest. A thoughtful income plan can help mitigate the risk of getting retirement started off on the wrong foot financially.

Read more Read more about Learn about the risk of bad timing
Market risk

Don't let market volatility get you down

How your assets are invested in retirement can help you weather the markets ups and downs. Being too conservative, too early could cause you to run out of money prematurely. And being too aggressive could increase your exposure to market volatility and the possibility of losing money. A well-diversified portfolio that includes a reliable source of income from an annuity can help keep the market from derailing your long-term plans.

Inflation risk

Don't forget about inflation

Food, medical care, transportation and recreation are likely to cost considerably more 20 years from now than they do today. One way to consider reducing the impact of rising prices is to keep a portion of your portfolio in investments with growth potential, such as equities. However, you may want to balance this with your exposure to market volatility and the risk of investment losses.

By the numbers

Inflation's effect on purchasing power

Inflation can really shrink the buying power of your money over the long term. Notice the effect different inflation rates have on the prices of common expenses over a 20-year period nationally.

  1998 2018 Increase
Movie1 $5.39 $10.14 +61%
Bread2 $0.91 $1.52 +50%
Gas2 $1.30 $2.09 +47%
Postage Stamp3 $0.33 $0.55 +50%
CPI-U4 $174.00 $260.23 +40%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Inflation Calculator.  2,4

Withdrawal risk

Consider tapping into retirement savings carefully

There is a real risk of drawing down your assets too aggressively to meet your spending needs. To help avoid depleting your assets too quickly, think about pairing a guaranteed lifetime income floor with a flexible withdrawal strategy that is monitored regularly and adjusted for changing conditions.

Healthcare risk

Keeping up with healthcare costs

If not properly managed, rising health care costs coupled with living longer in retirement can cause big trouble. So make sure to plan for increasing costs, and maximizing your benefits and savings opportunities.

Read more Read more about Keeping up with healthcare costs
By the numbers


The average amount a retired couple with high healthcare expenses may need to cover healthcare costs for the rest of their lives.  

Source: Employee Benefits Research Institute, 2020

Cognitive risk

Maintain a sense of control

Financial skills are often the first loss in aging. If cognitive impairment is a concern for you, a combination of an income plan that guarantees your basic needs are covered and an estate plan can help safeguard your assets. You may want to consult with your legal and tax advisors about your estate planning needs.

Next steps

How TIAA can help

Learn more

Brush up on Social Security and Medicare

Give us a call

We're here to help.

Weekdays 8 a.m. − 10 p.m. (ET)


Ready to Retire?

Take the next steps to activate the lifetime income options you may already have in your plan.6

Get in Touch

Talk with a TIAA Consultant to help you review your overall retirement strategy and to help you consider the next steps.

1 National Association of Theatre Owners. January 2021. http://www.natoonline.org/data/ticket-price/Opens in a new window

2 Bureau of Labor Statistics. January 2021. 

3 United States Postal Services Rates for Domestic Letters since 1863. https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/domestic-letter-rates-since-1863.htmOpens in a new window

4 "Consumer Price Index Data from 1913 to 2020." U.S. Inflation Calculator. January, 2021.http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/consumer-price-index-and-annual-percent-changes-from-1913-to-2008/ Opens in a new window

5 https://www.ebri.org/content/a-bit-of-good-news-during-the-pandemic-savings-medicare-beneficiaries-need-for-health-expenses-decrease-in-2020Opens in a new window

6 Any guarantees under annuities issued by TIAA are subject to TIAA's claims-paying ability.

This material is for informational or educational purposes only and does not constitute fiduciary investment advice under ERISA, a securities recommendation under all securities laws, or an insurance product recommendation under state insurance laws or regulations. This material does not take into account any specific objectives or circumstances of any particular investor, or suggest any specific course of action. Investment decisions should be made based on the investor’s own objectives and circumstances.

Annuities are designed for retirement and other long-term goals. If you choose to invest in the variable investment products, your money will be subject to the risks associated with investing in securities, including loss of principal.  Withdrawals of earnings from a retirement account or an annuity are subject to ordinary income tax, plus a possible federal 10% penalty if you make a withdrawal before age 59 ½.

Please note that TIAA is not responsible for the content or privacy policies of third-party sites that may be referenced in this article or to which you may link from this article. TIAA does not endorse or recommend the products, services, or information found on any third party site.