If you plan to retire soon or are at least considering it, now is a good time to check your retirement readiness by reviewing these ten essential pre-retirement questions and “to-dos.” Getting clarity on each of these will go a long way to help ensure your retirement is successful, not only from a financial standpoint but also in avoiding common planning mistakes and most importantly enjoying the retirement lifestyle you’ve always envisioned.
1. How will you fill all those leisure hours after you quit your job?
Your finances alone shouldn’t drive your retirement decisions. Certainly, it can be appealing to dream about all the things you’ll be able to do with your free time once you retire. But if your sense of purpose stays at work after you’ve packed up your desk or hung up your tool belt for the last time, then all of that free time may be more of a curse than a blessing.
You might want to work part-time after you retire, or maybe you’ll opt to volunteer. Or, maybe your retirement purpose is about spending more time with family. Whatever your lifestyle goals are, it makes sense to create a retirement action plan focused on the activities you plan to pursue. Then you can work with a financial planner who can help you properly align your retirement income with your desired lifestyle.
For more information, check out our blog post: Thinking about the Best Way to plan for retirement years? – Hint, it’s much more than about money.
2. Can you afford to retire?
After spending years dreaming about your retirement lifestyle, you now need to calculate what that vision will cost and whether you have accumulated enough to make it happen.
Create a retirement budget and test drive it. Once you stop working, you’ll have to adjust to the reality of living off what you’ve saved all those years, plus any Social Security and other retirement income you may have. By test driving your budget, it can help you feel more confident about your retirement readiness while also identifying any areas that may need adjusting.
3. When should you apply for Social Security?
One of the most important retirement planning decision you will make is how and when to claim your Social Security benefits. It may be tempting to claim your benefits right away, as early as age 62, but this will result in a permanently reduced benefit. The difference between taking your benefits at age 62 versus waiting until your full retirement age (which is 66 for those born before 1955) is 25% more income over your lifetime. Also, every year you delay receiving your benefits after your full retirement age, up until age 70, increases your income by 8% per year.
The key is to understand all of your claiming options so you can maximize your Social Security income, well before you retire, to ensure you factor in the most accurate social security income projections into your planning.
The rules can be complex, so it may make sense to consult with a financial planner specializing in Social Security retirement income who can review the Social Security claiming options available to you to maximize your benefits while avoiding common claiming mistakes that could cost you potentially thousands in lost benefits. Click here to learn more: Social Security Claiming Strategy Review
In addition, be sure to review your Social Security statements periodically at www.ssa.gov to ensure the information is accurate. If you find an error in your earnings record, which is not uncommon, you will want to get it corrected quickly as there is a time limit on making such corrections. To learn more read our blog post: Your Social Security Statement is no longer in the mail – round two.
4. How will you generate the income you need from your retirement savings?
As you prepare to transition into retirement, your retirement funds need to transition along with you. Repositioning your retirement assets that are now in the accumulation and growth stage to a retirement distribution phase that will provide you with a lifetime income takes careful planning.
Creating an income plan from your retirement funds requires considering the impact of inflation, your lifestyle income needs, taxes, your tolerance for risk and market volatility. Your income strategy should be tested under various earnings and withdrawal-rate scenarios to compare possible outcomes.
5. Evaluate your health-insurance options
If you plan to retire before age 65, you may have a gap in health insurance between any current employer-sponsored health benefits and your move to Medicare at age 65. Obtaining health insurance during any coverage gap can be a major expense that needs to be considered and included in your retirement-income plan.
Be certain to also calculate the cost of your Medicare Part B premiums when you are estimating your Social Security Retirement income, as these costs are generally deducted directly from your payments each month. To learn more read our blog post: Medicare premiums went up again in 2017. But some will pay more than others. Here’s why.
6. How will you handle any potential long-term care expenses during your retirement?
With median long-term care costs ranging from $1,473 to $7,698 a month nationwide, this unexpected expense can wreak havoc on most anyone’s retirement income plans—and most long-term care costs are not covered by health insurance or Medicare.
It’s important to evaluate your potential options should you or your spouse suffer a debilitating illness in retirement, and assess whether long-term care insurance may be an option. And if not, what other strategies may be available to you to help ensure you have adequate assets and income available to meet both your health-care and income needs.
7. Determine where you want to live after you retire
A recent survey for Bankrate (“Would You Move in Retirement?”) found that three out of five Americans would like to move to another city or state after they retire. Maybe you’re eager to move to a warmer client or be closer to your children and grandchildren, or maybe you want to move to a tropical paradise in another country. If moving to a new locale is part of your retirement plans, the cost of living in that location should be incorporated into your overall planning and budgeting.
8. Compare your taxes today to what they may be as you head into retirement
To get a better understanding of what your income tax situation may look like in retirement, review your sources of retirement income and what portion will be taxable, such as distributions from a 401(k) or traditional IRA. Take a look at your current tax deductions and whether these same deductions or others will be available when you retire. And if you are planning on moving as discussed earlier, be sure to review any potential changes in income, local, state and property taxes, and even changes in potential inheritance taxes for your heirs.
9. Review any major expenses you may want to take care of before retiring
Will your car need replacing soon? How about your roof, hot-water heater, driveway, windows, or other major household item? Consider getting these items dealt with before you retire, to reduce the likelihood of financial shocks in retirement.
10. Prepare for the Unexpected with an adequate Emergency Fund
Unexpected expenses in retirement can deplete your retirement savings faster than you might expect. Whether it’s major home repairs, dental expenses, caring for a family member or other unforeseen costs, you want to be prepared. Having six to nine months of regular expenses stashed in an emergency fund will help ensure that you avoid using assets earmarked for your monthly income. For more information on preparing for unexpected expenses in retirement read our blog post: ‘I thought I had a great retirement income strategy! Until this happened…’
As you can see from these ten essential pre-retirement questions and “to-dos,” the decision of when and how to retire is big—perhaps the biggest decision you’ll ever make. Even if you’ve never met with a financial planner before, consider doing so now. Working with a planner who specializes in retirement income planning to help guide you through the pre-retirement planning process could make all the difference in the world between having a financially secure retirement— or one potentially filled with worry and regret.
Sources: Genworth 2016 Cost of Care Survey Findings.
Eric C. Jansen, ChFC is the founder, president and chief investment officer of Westborough Massachusetts-based Finivi, which provides fee-based retirement income planning and investment management services for successful individuals and families nationwide. Do you need help planning for retirement? Call (800)530-6635 for a complimentary consultation.