5 Retirement Planning Must-Haves

To help assure a smooth transition into retired life it is important to take a close look at how well prepared you are. If you plan to retire at 65, you can typically expect to enjoy 20 or more years of retirement. No one wants to retire before they are ready, but if your finances are in order and you are anxious to make the move, it’s time to compare where you currently are with where you need to be to take your first steps toward a happy retirement.

For retirees to be, the first consideration is whether you have enough saved and invested to sustain your financial needs throughout your retired life. Not only do you need to have the basics covered, but you also want enough to live the lifestyle you choose and to do the things you have always wanted to. For greater peace of mind you can set aside funds to address unforeseen emergencies and unplanned cash needs which materialize all too frequently. The goal is to find a balance between working additional years to add to savings and getting started on your retirement journey as soon as possible.

Once you have enough money to retire, take a look at how prepared you are for the following:

What will you do? What you do to stay actively engaged will be a key component of the retirement happiness you experience. Before I roll into retirement I plan to compile a list of at least ten different activities and interests to keep me going during my second act. You may be able to get by with less or prefer more, but ten is a good starting point for me. The idea is to have a broad variety of interests to keep not just busy but actively involved and participating in each day. I believe it is important to choose activities that are dynamic and require you to think, calculate and stimulate your mind. Doing the same thing or following an identical daily routine may feel comfortable, but when you can basically run on auto-pilot there is not much challenge. My top five things to do in retirement are learning to speak French, improving my skills on the piano, continuing my blogging and writing efforts, becoming an expert at growing mouth-watering fruits and vegetables and what I call “historical travel,” where my wife and I thoroughly research the history, geography and culture of an area prior to embarking on a travel adventure.

Is your support network in place? As we age we will occasionally need help from those around us. Although many of us are proud of our independence and would prefer not to impose on others, we may need to at some point. When health and safety become a concern, a strong network of friends and family is of great value. We need others we can turn to not just in case of emergencies but also to assist in basic day to day functions. Having friends keep an eye out for our well being and offering the same in return is a good situation for all involved. Easy access to the nearest hospital and emergency care facilities is also an important consideration. An efficient public transportation system can be a blessing should driving become a challenge. As you prepare to retire, there may be specific areas in your support network that you need to beef up.

Will you retire in place or move? Living in the same home and neighborhood that you are already familiar with can be the perfect retirement for some people. Ideally the mortgage is paid off, you are friends with most of your neighbors and you know where all the best restaurants, stores and local attractions can be found. As long as you can safely maintain your independent living, retiring in place may be a high priority on your retirement checklist. For other people, retirement offers the opportunity to cash in on equity that has built over the years and move to some place new. Possible attractions include better weather, new surroundings to explore and new people to meet. A change in location can offer a fresh start and a new environment as you begin living your second act.

What insurance coverage do you need? As you age, one thing you can count on is increased expenditures for health care. More years lived means more things have the potential to go wrong. Health care coverage is a critical component of your retirement security. Don’t forget your teeth and eyes, which will likely need some attention along the way. Some people may want to consider long-term disability insurance to protect against what can be catastrophic expenses as the result of an extended illness. Those with estates may opt to help shield beneficiaries from inheritance taxes by purchasing life insurance in amounts that match expected fees to be incurred. With so many insurance options to consider, making the right choices for your individual situation is an important step in preparing to retire.

Do you have goals in retirement? Setting goals is not for everyone, but some people can benefit from a clear target to focus their efforts and energies. You may want to make preparations to leave behind a legacy for future generations or choose to contribute time and aid to worthy causes. Some people commit to improving their health now that they have time to dedicate to exercise and fitness. Setting a goal and measuring your success against its achievement can help to keep you on track and putting in extra effort to get it done.

From my blog for US News & World.

How To Make Retirement Work For You

A successful retirement will not necessarily look the same for everyone. What excites one retiree may bore another. Retirement is simply having the freedom to pursue what is most closely aligned with your interests. Here are a few ideas to help you make the most of your second act:

Make your own rules. It can be helpful to read books and articles describing how to create the perfect retirement. You certainly need to know how much to save and how best to draw down your savings as well as how to occupy your retired days. But only you are qualified to make the final decisions. Only you know exactly what you like, dislike, fear or hope for. It is up to you to navigate a course to reach your personal retirement happiness.

Rather than automatically accept the recommendations of others, it might be better to incorporate what works for you and forget about the rest. Feel free to pick and choose the most relevant advice to construct your optimal retired life. Build your retirement based upon your needs, wishes and intuition.

Set your own pace. Employees are occasionally forced to push themselves beyond what they are comfortable with. With deadlines creeping closer and pressure from the boss, workers often push ahead despite the cost of less time spent with family or in individual pursuits. In retirement, you finally get to control the pace of your days. How fast and furious you choose to live is entirely up to you. Don’t let the momentum that swept you along in your career continue to define how you spend your days as a retiree. Try to make time for meaningful activities but also allow for downtime. Now that you are retired you have the freedom to indulge yourself.

Spend time with who you want. The world is full of interesting people from all walks of life with stories to tell and moments to share. In retirement, you get to choose who you want to spend your time with. There are no more mandatory meetings or boring social events that you feel obligated to attend. This can be the perfect time to re-establish family ties or renew faded friendships. Make your decisions wisely because there is only so much time in the day.

Don’t spend it all in one place. Living on a fixed income can feel like a precarious balancing act, especially if you have not effectively budgeted for the retirement lifestyle you hope to enjoy. You want to take advantage of the freedom you have earned, but need to be careful not to overdo it too early in the game. Some people fear that living a frugal retirement might force them to miss out on experiences they waited and saved for their entire life. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A little attention to how much you spend mixed with a bit of prioritizing can pave the way for a happier retired life. Weigh how important it really is to buy a new appliance or car and acknowledge the cost in terms of where you might otherwise spend the money. Rather than a five-star hotel, try thinking three-star. If you tone down your expectation for an elaborate fine dining experience you can still enjoy a tasty outing. If you are willing to trim back a little on extravagances, you can increase your discretionary funds to take advantage of more opportunities and adventures.

Don’t wait too long to have fun. If you have something on your to-do list that you are excited about doing, don’t wait. You will never again be as young as you are today. Waiting for the perfect moment when everything is exactly in alignment might never come. Now is a good time to learn to dance the rumba, take up sand sculpturing or try your hand at stand-up comedy. You have waited your whole lifetime to retire, so why wait any longer to start having some fun?

From my blog for US News & World