For many, the thought of retirement can be one of excitement, you’re heading to the most enjoyable phase of life or it can be one of anxiety over whether you’re financially ready to retire. To help determine where you are in the retirement process, I’ve put together a preparing for retirement checklist.
Is it your dream to retire early and begin living your life of leisure? You can achieve that goal but you’ll need to create a plan and stick to it. The first step is to just get started preparing for your retirement years.
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Know What Your Assets Are
To begin your journey to retirement, you’ll need to know where you stand financially. To help you figure this out, use the following list as a guide to gather the necessary information:
- All your income streams; paychecks, business profit, etc.
- Savings account balances
- Any 401K accounts
- Pensions if you have them
- Insurance policies
- Health care costs
- Properties you own in addition to your home
- Any other valuable possessions
- Every debt; credit cards, school loans, car loans, etc…
- Liabilities anything else you may have
The simplest way to compile this information is to use a worksheet. You will find this is the best way to visually see exactly where you stand financially.
You’ve more than likely heard this before; as a general rule, the experts will tell you that you will need $1 million to be financially comfortable in retirement. On the other hand, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average American age 55 or older spends $49, 279 per year of retirement.
Now, if you think about it, if you plan on 30 years of retirement you’d spend nearly $1.5 million during that period of time. Either way, if you’d like to look at it, you’ll get a pretty good idea of how your preparation for retirement compares.
It doesn’t matter at what age you start preparing for your retirement, having debt reduces your ability to increase wealth. Paying on high-interest credit cards, expensive cars or any other type of loan takes away from your most valuable asset; your income.
So, how do you go about eliminating debt? I always thought it was to pay off balances with the highest interest rates but then I read a book by Dave Ramsey
that changed my way of thinking. The basic premise is to follow these steps in what Dave refers to as the Snowball Method.
- List your debts from smallest to largest, regardless of the interest rate.
- Attack the smallest debt with a vengeance, while making minimum payments on the rest of your debts.
- Repeat this method as you plow your way through debt.
Once you pay off one debt, use the amount you were paying and add it to the next debt and knock it out. Keep following that process until all debt is paid off.
To keep from using credit cards for emergencies, it’s a good idea to have at least $1000 set aside for when needed.
How long will it take to eliminate debt depends on your level of determination. Some difficult decisions have to be made to speed up the process so you can then focus on preparing for retirement. What am I referring to? Simply put, cut back on spending and find ways to increase funds.
I understand it can be difficult to cut back on spending, I’ve been there and change is never easy. Some areas where you could cut back and potentially generate additional funds are:
- Make a household budget and stick to it. Make sure your kids know you’re on a budget and explain the importance.
- Stop going out to eat. Have friends over instead of meeting at a restaurant.
- Your favorite coffee shop will survive without your business
- Consider a consignment shop. Clean out your closets.
- Plan your trips to the grocery store. Plan your meals, make a list, and stick to it.
- Start couponing. You’d be surprised at what you could save.
- Have a car you don’t need? Sell it. We had 3 cars that we couldn’t do without, wrong; we sold one and didn’t even miss it.
- Clean out your garage. See anything you haven’t used; any golf clubs collecting dust? Sell it on Craigslist.
- Cut up your credit cards. I kept one just for emergencies when on a road trip. Otherwise, it was left in the safe.
- Use cash. It’s much more difficult to part with your cash.
- Reduce your investments. Odds are the income generated is outpaced by the interest you’re paying on the debt. Only you can determine what’s best for your situation.
- Ask for a raise. What harm can it cause?
- Get a part-time job.
- Start a home-based business. If you’ve ever thought about the possibility, what better time than right now? It could be as simple as a dog-walking business.
- What about a hobby where you make things? Sell your products online. If you enjoy sharing your thought and insights on a particular subject, you could start a blog and make some additional money.
It’s important to remember what your ultimate goal is; to retire and begin living your life of leisure. You can achieve this goal, just stay focused and remember your why.
Have An Emergency Fund
Now that you have successfully wiped out your debt, some experts recommend that you have at least three months of living expenses put away. Believe it or not, some suggest you save enough for a year but six months should suffice in the event there is some sort of life emergency.
It’s important to understand that the emergency fund is not based on your income. The amount you save for emergencies is based on your expenses, the amount you spend each month.
With the adjustments you made to eliminate your debt, your monthly spending should be at a manageable level. Socking away enough for an emergency should be a rather quick process without debt hanging over your head.
Planning For Your Healthcare Needs
If you’re like most people preparing for retirement, health care is one of your main concerns. Healthcare costs continue to increase and will most likely be one of your largest expenses, along with housing and transportation. Because you are taking the necessary steps in preparing for retirement, you are able to include the cost in your retirement budget.
There are some estimates that a couple would require $285,000 in retirement to cover medical expenses (Fidelity Benefits Consulting estimate; 2019). This may all seem so overwhelming but once you are aware of all the financial unknowns that you need a plan for, you are well on your way to enjoying your retirement years.
Here’s a fun fact: According to a study conducted by T. Rowe Price “retirees are generally optimistic about retirement, with 84 percent agreeing that their retirement has turned out to be just as good or better than expected, and 80 percent agreeing that they are enjoying retirement more than their primary working years.”
A good place to start would be to read up on Medicare, U.S.News
has a good article to check out, “Your Guide to Medicare Coverage”. I would also suggest visiting Medicare.gov and reviewing the information on their website.
Once you have a handle on what Medicare covers, you can decide what additional coverage you might like to have if any. For instance, it’s a good idea to consider Long Term Care insurance. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that “approximately 70% of people turning age 65 can expect to use some form of long-term care during their lives.”
Another option is an HSA (health savings account) health plan. If your employer offers an HSA plan you may want to consider enrolling and contributing to the plan. An HSA can help you save; potentially you could withdraw funds tax-free for qualified health care costs in retirement.
You are expecting your retirement to be the most exciting time of your life. Financial concerns are the last thing you need to worry about, especially when it involves healthcare. The better job you do of saving for the future now, learning everything you can about Medicare, and acquiring long-term care insurance, the more enjoyable your senior years will be.
Plan Your Estate
Have you thought about your Estate planning? Often times it’s an important aspect of your financial planning that is neglected, mostly due to the uncomfortable questions that need to be addressed. No one really wants to think about “what will happen to my assets and my family when I die?”
Estate planning may seem that it’s only for the very rich but due to the complicated legal system, even individuals with modest assets need some sort of written documentation. According to a Gallup Poll, only 44 percent of Americans have made a will.
A will is a fairly simple legal document that details your wishes with regard to how you would like your property dispersed and if there are minors involved, how you would want them to be taken care of.
An estate plan has more detail and goes further than a will. It has the potential to help you and your heirs pay substantially less in taxes, fees, and court costs. Fidelity has a good article on estate planning you may want to check out.
In either case, you’ll need to appoint an Executor to oversee all of your assets. I would suggest seeking legal assistance depending on your personal situation. You can easily locate an estate attorney in your area. Make sure you check out their references prior to making any decisions.
Income Producing Investments
In preparation for your retirement years, you’ll need to find the best retirement investments that have the ability to generate regular income. Once you’re debt free and have your emergency fund set aside, it’s time to start generating your nest egg.
Listed below are some of the most popular income-producing investments:
- Annuities – a form of insurance rather than an investment
- Bonds – basically they’re loans you give to governments, municipalities, or corporations that pay you regular interest.
- Retirement Income Funds – a type of mutual fund
- Rental Real Estate – depends on if you want the responsibility of being a landlord
- Dividend Income Funds – dividends paid by stocks in the fund
- Individual Stocks – risky but potentially very lucrative.
Developing sufficient recourses to provide you with a comfortable lifestyle in your retirement years can be a struggle at times. There is no guarantee that any investment will provide the desired income results.
Each option can be effective but it all depends on your level of risk, your ability to monitor investments, and your income needs. I suggest seeking the advice of a quality financial advisor, preferably one that offers minimal fees. Unless, of course, you have the experience needed to effectively handle your investments.
Life After Retirement
If you’re like me, you have a good idea of what you want out of your retirement years. It’s more than just living a life of leisure, what do you plan to do with your time? You’ve spent years using the preparing for retirement checklist to ensure all essential areas are squared away, you’re ready to enjoy life.
Many retirees report that after six to nine months, they’re itching to do something, and become more productive. To be happy while in retirement you’ll want to envision how you see your retirement years unfold and plan to make it happen.
Do you have a hobby you’d like to get back to? Over the years you may have had activities that you enjoyed and as life got in the way, they just slipped away. Are there places you wanted to visit and never had the time? Now would be a wonderful time.
Why Is It Important?
Studies have shown that retirees who keep a busy schedule of activities in addition to maintaining their relationships enjoy a much happier retirement. My parents are busier now than they have ever been; it’s quite amazing to witness.
Volunteering your time is a great way to keep busy and can be a rewarding experience. My parents are nearing their 80s, they volunteer at their church and my dad volunteers for habitat for humanity building cabinets two days per week. They are very pleased with where they are in life. You too can enjoy a fulfilling journey through your retirement years, it’s there for the taking.
By helping others, you can add meaning and purpose to your life which we all desire.
For some retirees, working a few hours a week not only gives them something to do but can also add to their financial security. Even if you don’t need the extra cash, it may be a way to be around other people and make new friends.
Part-time work doesn’t have to be at a place of business as an employee, now a day’s there’s Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and Grubhub. You could work when you want, no schedule to follow.
If you had ever considered starting a small business, maybe now’s the time. As mentioned in the “Eliminate Debt” section above, if you have a hobby where you make things you could sell your products online. If you enjoy sharing your thoughts and insights, consider starting a blog to generate additional income. It’s much easier than you’d think.
It’s important to stay physically active. I’m not saying you need to run out and join a health club, just be active daily. Take walks, work in the garden, or maybe learn yoga. Aim for half an hour of activity every day.
Every little bit helps you stay active and healthy. You could also check with your local community for classes you might be interested in. Many communities offer exercise programs for seniors at a reduced rate and sometimes for free.
There is definitely no need to procrastinate in preparing for your retirement. The more time you give yourself to be financially secure, the less stressed you’ll be about the process of attaining your life of leisure.
Retirement is something that you have worked for your entire life. As you’ve gone through a preparing for retirement checklist, you now have a better understanding of what needs to be accomplished to enjoy your life to the fullest. You can head into retirement excited to live the life you envisioned for yourself.
Enjoy the Journey!
Disclaimer: The above information is listed as a guideline and should not be substituted for professional advice from your attorney, accountant, or financial planner.