It’s natural to have mixed emotions about retirement – it’s a huge life change that people spend most of their work lives preparing for. While the idea of retirement is exciting, the options and advice available can sometimes seem overwhelming and complex. There are several simple things you can do if you don’t feel ready for your retirement years. Check out the following steps to help you prepare for this milestone.
1. Determine your vision. One of the most enjoyable parts of planning for retirement is deciding how to spend your time. Although you might be wanting to relax, you may also decide to move to a different part of the country, travel, volunteer, or spend more time with family and friends. Your plans can always change, but creating a list of activities that you may want to do is a fun and valuable part of the planning process.
2. Start with the basics. Developing a written plan is the first important step, but before you catch up on the numbers, determine what you absolutely need to cover the expenses that are really essential. Include basics like food, mortgage payments, health care costs, and other financial obligations. You may want to make a list of areas where you could cut back and cut your expenses if you run into a financial hurdle down the road.
3. Make your plans concrete. Many people become obsessed with this step as it can involve a harsh reality test. To get started, figure out how much money you’ll need to meet your basic needs over the course of a 30-year retirement, and then add in the discretionary expenses that accompany activities and lifestyle goals, such as travel and hobbies. Be honest with yourself and try to factor in rising cost of living and rising health care costs in your projections. This will give you a rough estimate of the amount of “income” you will need in retirement to replace your paycheck and achieve the lifestyle you want. Next, consider all the sources you can get this income from, such as a 401 (k), annuities, or cash savings. Also consider breaking this amount down into smaller goals that you can more easily prioritize, manage, and track.
4. Protect your plan and your legacy. Make sure the beneficiary information in your accounts is up to date and that you have the right insurance and protection plans in place to safeguard your income and assets now and for the long term. Also start thinking about the legacy you want to leave, your family, or the organizations that are important to you. Involve your loved ones in these conversations and clearly communicate your intentions and expectations.
5. Track your progress. As with all goals, it’s important to set milestones, register, and reflect as you go. Keep in mind that a little time and organization goes a long way. Set aside one day each month to sit down with your finances, and also consider meeting with a financial and legal professional annually. Even if your goals still seem far away or you’ve experienced a setback, you won’t regret spending more time reviewing your progress. This also provides a good opportunity to make adjustments if your situation or your plans for the future have changed.
Planning for retirement can be a complicated, emotional, and overwhelming process. Consider seeking the objective advice of a professional financial advisor who can guide you and make sure you understand all of your options. It is important to note that the surest way to feel confident about what is to come is to do your best to prepare for it.