Retirement is almost here. You’re officially counting down the days. However, as you inch closer to the moment when you can ride off in the professional sunset, you start to wonder: am I as financially prepared for retirement as I’d like to be?
Despite budgetary concerns keeping many Americans from retiring by the traditional age of 65, CNBC recently reported that U.S. baby boomers are retiring at the rate of some 10,000 people each day. If you’re part of that lineup, you should start putting pencil to paper right now.
“The closer you get to your planned retirement date, the better the sense you should have of what your actual spending needs will be,” advises Walter Updegrave on Money.CNN.com. “If you take the time to put a little thought into how you plan to live after you retire — an exercise I call ‘retirement lifestyle planning' — you should be able to come up with a fairly decent estimate of the expenses you'll incur and how much income you need to live the post-career life you envision.”
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare your finances for retirement.
- Be as accurate and thorough as possible in creating your annual retirement budget. Online retirement calculators and Social Security calculators can be a helpful tool to help you choose a retirement date, estimate rates of return and inflation, and more.
- Document your spending habits. Tracking expenses will help you notice any areas for improvement in your daily budget. Separate your bills into essentials and non-essentials - and fixed versus variable costs - to identify possible reductions for the future.
- Consider how your hobbies and lifestyle may change after retirement. How do you plan to spend your time? Do you have expensive hobbies? Will changes be necessary to enable your new budget?
- Have your plan vetted by a professional retirement planner, preferably one who draws a flat fee and is likely to be objective.
- Pay an expert to analyze your pension plan to ensure you’re making the correct decisions on how you receive distributions.
- Study the most beneficial times for you and your spouse to begin drawing Social Security benefits.
- Learn the pros and cons of leaving your money in a 401(k) versus rolling it over into an IRA.
- Try to match your income timetable with the timeline for your planned expenses. If you feel like a significant upcoming expense might expose you, look for ways to reconcile any gaps.
- Be realistic about likely healthcare costs, especially if you must forgo health insurance before qualifying for Medicare at age 65.
- Estimate your Medicare premiums. Understand its benefits and note that Medicare will probably only cover half your healthcare costs.
- Learn the differences between viable retirement investment options before forming a savvy investment strategy.
- Accumulate enough funds in checking or savings to cover three months of living expenses, in case these funds are needed in between pension or Social Security checks.
- Understand how your various sources of income will be taxed and how that will affect your take-home pay.
- Read a guide or guides on retirement planning to get a broader range of advice, which can be somewhat subjective.
Go into your retirement open-eyed by thinking through all the financial implications of your new life. Forewarned, as they say, is forearmed.