How to Make the Retirement Transition
As retirement draws near, our checklist can help you prepare for what’s next on the road of life.
The decision to retire is highly personal, and it can take place at different ages for different reasons. We’ve all heard of business whiz-kids retiring at 40 and people who opt to work well into their 70s by choice.
Still, a recent study on retirement1 found that more than half of the retirees surveyed retired before the age of 65, with the median age being 63. Most of us seem to be choosing a fairly traditional retirement launch date, no doubt influenced by when Social Security Retirement benefits kick in.
That means that many people in their late forties and early fifties are drawing nearer to retirement than they may realize.
If you’re in that age range, below is a retirement planning checklist designed to help you fuel progress at a reasonable pace. Everyone is unique of course, so this information is neither exhaustive nor a substitute for working with a financial advisor. Still, it can help you assess where you are now and what you might want to do to get where you want to be on Day 1 of your retirement.
10-15 years from retirement
Even if you haven’t saved meticulously to date, there’s still plenty of time to get started. In fact, with the right strategy in place, you have a nice window of opportunity to increase your retirement savings.
- Schedule a meeting with a financial advisor.
- If you haven’t already done so, set up automatic deposits into an employer-sponsored savings plan such as a 401(k) or a 403(b) plan.
- Establish routines that support healthy eating, daily exercise, getting outside and managing stress — all of which can help avoid dipping into your savings to address health concerns.
5-10 years from retirement
If you have already started investing in your retirement fund, the time may now be right to increase the amount of money you are saving. You might want to consider maintaining your current standard of living and putting that extra money toward retirement or another long-term goal.
Now is also a good time to practice living on a more limited income, if feasible, so that you’ll be better prepared to live with less money later.
If you’re returning to the paid workforce after raising children or caring for elders — and you are 50 years or older, you can try to catch up on retirement savings by contributing additional “catch up” funds to your 401(k) or 403(b) plans.
- Meet with your financial advisor and go over your goals and any recent or upcoming life changes, such as children going off to college or getting married.
- Consider increasing the amount you are putting into your retirement savings.
- Complete and/or update any important legal documents (e.g., will, power of attorney for healthcare or medical proxy, advanced directive or living will).
- Make sure someone you trust knows where you keep your passcodes for online accounts and websites.
- Consider obtaining long-term care insurance.
- Develop a plan to pay off existing debt and avoid taking on new debt.
- Maintain your health by eating sensibly, exercising daily, managing stress and visiting the doctor and dentist regularly.
1-3 years from retirement
Retirement is around the corner! If you’ve done your planning to get to this point, now is the time to refine your focus. There are a lot of decisions to be made before you leave work for the last time. Also, if your retirement savings isn't where you would like it to be, then now might be a good time to explore increasing your retirement plan contributions and work toward paying down any debt.
- Talk to your financial advisor about types of investments to help preserve your portfolio.
- Make sure you have a current, well-documented financial strategy for retirement.
- Determine how much after-tax income you will need to maintain your lifestyle (and expect that you might need more as you age).
- Learn about your Medicare options and when to enroll.
- Make or review your long-term care plans and insurance.
- Discuss your financial situation with family members, as well as your wishes for when you pass.
- Review and/or update any important legal documents (e.g., will, power of attorney for healthcare or medical proxy, advanced directive or living will).
- Budget for home modifications that will allow you to age in place.
- Establish or continue your commitment to healthy eating and daily exercise.
- Maintain family and social connections. Healthy relationships may help keep you feeling good as you begin retirement, which can require emotional and psychological adjustments.
Of course, no matter how far you are from your first day of retirement, we know there is no one-size-fits-all to retirement planning. That’s why it is so important to work with a knowledgeable financial advisor who will help you consider more deeply where you are today and plan better for the future.
1Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. (2022, September). Retirees and retirement amid COVID-19: 20th annual transamerica retirement survey of retirees. Retrieved from: https://www.transamericacenter.org/docs/default-source/retirees-survey/tcrs2020_sr_retiree-retirement-amid-covid19.pdf.
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