Personalize Your Retirement

(Taken from “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be”)

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Retirement is defined quite simply and succinctly in Wikipedia as the point where a person stops employment completely. To those about to begin their personal journey into retired living that abbreviated account might seem an understatement of sorts. As 75 million baby boomers begin to enter that time in their lives when retirement becomes a consideration if not a priority, retirees to be may quickly discover there is a lot more to consider beyond simply the absence of work. Talk about a life changing event – no more nine-to-five, no more Monday morning dread, no more corporate politics, away with those boring meetings, done with pressure filled project deadlines, and finally time for ourselves to do what we want to do. Rather than centering our efforts on moving up in the ranks we can begin to focus on moving out into the world and on to brand new experiences. Retirement can change the way we live every day and redefine those activities we have become accustomed to doing during that day. There is a bit more to retirement than merely the absence of employment.

Well before reaching the threshold of retirement the wise retiree to be will begin to navigate the endless jungle of details that promises to make up his retired life. Assuming we retire at 65 the duration of our typical retirement will be in the twenty to thirty year range. That is a lot of days, a lot of weeks, and a lot of months during which we are solely responsible for identifying and pursuing interests to make our days worth living. Gone are those busy working days filled with packed calendars. Our weekends will extend beyond Saturday and Sunday to include the entire seven day week. Imagine the possibilities now that we can pursue our passions and plans seven days a week! Get ready for time on our hands – lots of it.

I retired from years working in social services and now am following my own bliss. I have a small antique business that I started the month after my retirement. I love old things and the search for them. For the first time in my life I am able to wake up when I want, and the way I spend my day is up to me. I am free to be me.

As we look toward our future, it can help to start to prepare for what is going to happen rather than just wait and see. There might be actions we can take ahead of time to provide for an even more enjoyable retired life. Try to visualize your perfect retirement. Based upon the person you are, your interests and your passions, how might your perfect retirement look? What is really right for you? It is never too early to begin planning for your own fulfilling retirement. Once you begin to more clearly understand where you are today and where you want to ultimately end up, you can start putting together the pieces to build a retirement custom made for you.

What does retirement mean to me?

So you have decided it is time to call it quits at the old job and take a step into a new life of retirement, a new chapter, a new beginning. Some soon to be retirees find themselves almost giddy with excitement and expectation as they look toward the wonderful new life they will soon begin. Others are just ready for a break from the same old grind. Still others may find themselves a bit unsure and perhaps nervous about exactly what lies ahead. With the pending event drawing ever nearer, ideally you are beginning to ask the questions that can give you a deeper understanding of your personal views and expectations.

How do you feel about retirement?

Are you ready or reluctant?

How do you envision yourself in the next five years? What about ten? What about 20?

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about your new life ahead?

Are you maybe a bit scared? If so what is it that concerns you? What are your biggest fears?

What most excites you about the promise of retirement?

Are you looking forward to exploring new interests and trying different things?

Are you creative and energetic enough to occupy yourself with meaningful events each day?

Are you looking forward to spending 24/7 with your spouse?

Will you be able to find meaning in a life outside of work?

What single thing do you believe is most important to achieving happiness in retirement?

An understanding today of what you expect in retirement can allow you to make adjustments as needed while you still have time.

Take a look at your emotional reasons for working (doing something worthwhile, being respected by others, etc.). Those don’t just drive your work, they drive your life. You need to find non-work interests that give you the same sort of emotional benefits.

While I was searching for just the right cover for this book, I asked myself what single picture would best represent the concept of retirement. Is it even possible for a single moment in time to summarize all that is part and parcel of retired life? What I did not want to do was go with the old tried and true snapshots typically associated with retired life. I did not want to use a sunset since I believe that retirement is the beginning of something new rather than the end. I was not interested in using one of the many pictures of an old couple sitting on a bench looking out at a beautiful view of ocean, lake, or mountains. Yes this can be a wonderful component of the retirement we will live but it downplays all of the activity and adventure and life there is to live in addition to watching the world go by. And I sure wasn’t going to use a picture of someone swinging a club on the golf course, a far to frequent depiction of what awaits the recent retiree.

I settled on the picture you see of an empty hammock swinging in the breeze. First of all the vacant spot invites someone to climb on in and enjoy a peaceful, relaxing moment and who better qualified than a happily retired person in search of a little downtime. Secondly, the fact that the location is a tropical spot on some unknown shore reflects the myriad of options we will have to travel and explore new and exotic locales once we retire. The hammock may await us but not before the adventure of getting there has been lived. Finally, I have always had a thing for the ocean and the peace it brings to my soul. I can definitely picture myself reclining in the hammock, gently swaying in the warm tropical breezes with the steady sound of waves breaking in the distance. And when I am ready, one quick hop out of my hammock and a new unexplored world awaits me.

LoveBeingRetired

How to Keep Growing Your Savings in Retirement

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by PSECU, a Pennsylvania-based credit union.

Ah, the golden years, that magical time when people trade in their workers’ aprons and finally get to enjoy some much-deserved rest and relaxation.

However, one’s comfort level during retirement depends upon having an adequate nest egg. In the wake of the 2008 financial crash, many people dipped into retirement savings or increased the amount of debt they carried by taking out home equity lines of credit and the like. This means many seniors today experience a bit of anxiety when looking at their retirement funds, wondering if they will have enough to carry them through comfortably for the rest of their days.

Fortunately, techniques for continuing to grow savings even in the golden years exist, and people’s money can continue working long after the employee has hung up their hat. Here’s how.

Catch up on Your Contributions

Those 50 or older who remain in the workforce should take full advantage of the IRS rule allowing for catch up contributions to your 401(k) or IRA. Workers can contribute up to $6,000 per year without tax penalty. However, the vast majority of workers with 401(k)s can truly benefit from a retirement boost, as the contribution limit for those 50 and older changed to $24,000 per year, much more than the previous contribution limit.

Continue Paying Yourself

A long, long time ago, indubitably some economics instructor lectured on the importance of investing in savings even before paying other bills. Today, placing your savings goals on autopilot doesn’t even require a trip to the bank.

Those receiving direct deposits can simply call or log into their financial institution and direct them to divide income among checking, savings and investment accounts. Another tip — avoid linking debit cards to savings accounts. Merely having to drive to the bank to make a withdrawal versus hitting the ATM makes it easier to decline impulse purchases.

Avoid New Debts

Nothing can cut into retirement savings like high-interest credit cards that need paying each month. Avoiding new debt when nearing retirement should be a logical choice.

Unfortunately, too many people anxiously awaiting their retirement ages yield to the temptation to buy their dream car or take a no-expenses-spared vacation. While driving into the sunset in a shiny new Porsche sounds tempting, adding a $600 monthly payment may break one’s retirement budget. Try to resist the urge to splurge.

Consult Your Financial Planner

Your investing needs change as you age, and by the time you reach retirement age, dropping high-risk investments in lieu of lower-risk vehicles makes sense. By age 60, approximately 75 percent of any investment portfolio should consist of low-risk assets such as bonds. Contacting a qualified financial planner on an annual basis can help stretch nearly any retirement budget.

Have a Little Patience

Many people know waiting to retire means earning more in Social Security income, but holding off on pulling money from other retirement accounts may result in significantly increased gains. For example, those with $1 million in investment assets by age 60 can add another half-million dollars simply by waiting to retire until age 66, assuming a 6.5 percent return on investment.

Consider Downsizing

Many retirees find themselves rattling about in homes meant for growing families, not those approaching their sunset years. Larger homes require more money to heat and cool, increasing annual costs of living significantly.

Given the current stability in the housing market, the time to downsize has come. Additional proceeds from the sale of an overly large property can pad any retirement budget, and the savings in heating oil, not to mention in property taxes, cuts expenses at the same time.

Make Money with Hobbies

The entire point of retirement means finally shaking off the mantle of work responsibilities and spending time doing what one loves. Some hobbies can generate additional retirement income.

Seniors savvy about fitness can seek Silver Sneakers instructor certification and take up teaching classes. Crafty seniors can create unique gifts to sell at local fairs. Animal lovers can open a pet-sitting business.

Stepping out of the workforce means increased loneliness for many seniors, and harnessing a hobby helps keep them involved in their community while providing extra money.

Finally Dig Those Discounts!

Don’t overlook the power of the senior discount! Just about every grocery store hosts a monthly senior day where those 55 or older receive an additional percentage off purchases. Use these days to stock the pantry.

In addition, many Medicare supplement plans come with free fitness memberships. Why not work out when it’s free? Movie theaters, bowling alleys and other entertainment venues likewise often offer senior discounts.

Happy Retirement

Just because a senior retires from the workforce doesn’t mean their money has to stop working for them. By managing money wisely, one’s golden years can become the best ones ever. PSECU, a credit union in Pennsylvania, has created this interesting graphic on the average retirement savings by age — check it out here!

How To Apply For Social Security Disability (SSDI)

Written by Becky Wilcox

Are you unable to work due to injury or illness that causes physical of mental disability? You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI). SSDI is a federal program meant to provide monetary assistance to people with disabilities. The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees the program.

Are you eligible for SSDI?

Ideally, anyone who is unable to work due to some disability qualifies for disability benefits. For instance, if your previous work involved standing for long hours and your current condition prevents you from standing, you can qualify for disability benefits.

The SSA determines SSDI eligibility, and it has stringent acceptance guidelines. Mostly, they only accept individuals with medically proven disabilities. Therefore, before you apply, talk to a medical professional about your disability. The doctor will provide you with the proper medical documentation to prove that your disability is hindering your ability to work.

The doctor should provide the evidence in a written statement. The statement should outline your current medical condition and their opinion of the depth of your disability. Also, the statement should provide details on the type of work you cannot and should not do.

It is also essential that you gather your medical history, records of hospitalization, tests, and procedures leading up to your disability and provide them as proof.

When to apply for SSDI?

You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. However, you will only start receiving the benefits after six months of disability. The six-month waiting period begins the date the SSA determines your disability began.

According to the SSA, you are disabled if:

  • You are unable to do any significant work due to your medical condition.
  • Your medical condition has prolonged and is expected to last for at least a year, or the medical condition is expected to cause our death.

How to apply for SSDI

Make an appointment at the nearest SSA office to apply for SSDI. You can either apply via phone, email, or by visiting the offices in person. Whichever application process you chose, you will have to fill out the Social Security Benefit Application form and the Adult Disability and Work History Report.

Reviewing the Adult Disability Starter Kit

Once you decide to apply for disability benefits, the first step should be getting and reviewing the Adult Disability Starter Kit. The kit contains:

  • Factsheet: the fact sheet has the SSA definitions of disability and answers questions about the disability benefits application process.
  • Checklist: the checklist contains information about the documents you should prepare for the disability benefits interview.
  • Worksheet: the worksheet helps you prepare for the interview. It has the information that the SSA will ask you and space for you to write down the answers.

The SSDI interview

A Social Security claims representative will conduct the interview. Usually, it takes at least an hour. If you went through the checklist, you know you should have the following information:

  • Certified copy birth certificate, or proof of residency if you are an immigrant.
  • If you are a vet, provide a certified copy of the military discharge form.
  • The last year’s W-2 form or federal tax returns form if you are self-employed
  • Worker’s compensation history
  • Checking or savings account number
  • SSN of your children and spouse

Filling out the worksheet you received with the starter kit is very important. It helps you prepare for the interview and helps to complete the online disability report. The information required in the worksheet is mostly related to your current medical condition and your work history.

Additional information about SSDI

  • Aside from matching the SSA’s definition of disability, you must have worked and made social security payment for at least five of the last ten years.
  • You cannot qualify for disability benefits if you are over the maximum retirement age.
  • You can apply for disability benefits when receiving worker’s compensation. However, the amount you receive will be reduced.
  • The average SSDI payments were $1,179 in 2017. The amount might not meet all your needs. For that reason, the SSA has the ‘Ticket to Work’ program that helps people who have been approved for disability to return to work.
  • Many applications are rejected the first time. You can increase the odds of qualifying for the benefits by consulting an SSDI professional, such as a disability lawyer. Remember, you have a very short window to file an appeal once your application is denied.

The application process of SSDI is not a difficult process. All you need is proper evidence of disability and to prepare the required information and documentation.