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.

Why I Want To Be A Grandparent

For the past four-plus years I have been preparing for retirement. Back in 2010 the wonderful little start-up I worked for was unexpectedly (at least for me) purchased by a behemoth public company. Not only was the nature of the job and business drastically altered but it soon became apparent our group was not going to survive the reorganization. My position quickly “evolved out” and at the venerable age of 50 I was forced to begin looking for a new gig somewhere out there in the daunting job market. I quickly discovered the number of career options requiring my skills (especially at my age) was rather dismal. After eight long months I realized I just might not find another full time job…ever

I began to plan and research and prepare for the retired life I might suddenly find myself living. Rather than focus on only the financial side of things I considered just how I would occupy and engage myself once no longer a member of the working world that had monopolized my days for decades. Since my departure and revelation, I have been able to build a variety of interests and hobbies and passions that keep me busy for most of my waking hours. And I love it! At the moment, the one thing my retirement repertoire is missing is the experience of having someone call me grandpa. I am looking forward to that day.

I think being a grandparent will be one of the best jobs ever. At a time in my life when I have “done it all” and could begin to find myself a bit jaded, in comes a new force whose life experience is a blank slate. Everything ahead is new and wonderful. Energy levels are as high as they will ever be and curiosity of all things is the norm. Innocence and honesty rule the day. And when they look up with those bright inquisitive loving eyes, you have no possible choice but to love them right back.

I look forward to being a part of first time experiences. I remember so many fun trips and adventures with my kids over the years and am ready to do it all again. One trip to the zoo stands out as my then three and five year olds wandered up to a Lemur exhibit. They had Sharing Photos with Kidsnever seen anything quite like these perpetually swinging critters that immediately began to hoot and holler with booming voices momentarily stunning the kids. But they quickly recovered and were soon laughing wildly as they bravely pushed their little bodies ever closer to the show. What about the first time investigating the wonders of the tide pools? Or their first pickle (a traditional comfort food in our family)? What about their first dance or baseball game or cartoon or ice cream? That wonder and excitement in their eyes is something I cannot wait to share.

I believe grandchildren will help me appreciate the little things. When I raised my kids there was often an unavoidable atmosphere of stress that threatened to taint the good moments. Whether it was the bills or long hours on the job or having to do without to prepare for the future, it was easy to get distracted. It was easy for the little things, those brief but wonderful special moments, to be overshadowed by seemingly more important events. As a grandpa that stress is no more. I will not get upset over a little mess that results from creative play and exploration. Reading stories will not be a chore but a highly anticipated event; holding them when tears flood will be my cherished duty; making them laugh will make my day; sitting together on the couch watching strange cartoons I do not understand will be just fine. I will have time (I hope) and patience (I really hope) to enjoy those moments that will only be lived once. And this time around I plan to appreciate each one of them.

Grandchildren bring their excitement and wide-eyed wonderment to holidays making celebrations even better. Christmas time for children is nothing short of magical – in their mind everything is possible. I remember when I was seven waking in the middle of Christmas Eve and calling mom to my bedroom vehemently swearing I heard the jingle of bells and Santa on the roof. I really thought I did! Every birthday is a special celebration with determined faces taking seriously the chore of blowing out all those candles. When Halloween rolls around prepare to be frightened by half pint monsters and enchanted by celestial princesses. There is no time to be anything but happy when you find yourself in the midst of energetic youngsters brimming over with a joy they cannot contain.

And I look forward to weekend visits knowing well the routine of my retired day will be thrown off its orbit and the cats likely traumatized by the determined pursuit of little people. Things may be misplaced and unexpected “decorative improvements” may highlight previously clean walls. And just when my wife and I find ourselves desperately searching for a couch to collapse into and that supreme cuteness of the grandkids has reached a saturation point, our children will come to the rescue. With genuine appreciation in their eyes for our help entertaining the gremlins, they will bundle up their toys and their furry stuffed friends and their cute little ensembles and head to the car for the trip home. I can see my wife and me sitting together as we catch our breath and gather our thoughts. Holding hands as we look toward each other I envision a smile on our tired faces as we relive memorable moments and congratulate one another on our survival. It was a memorable visit, it was a good time, and there is nothing better than being a grandparent.

From an article I wrote for a wonderful site called GrandMagazine