Getting Ready for Retirement? Here are 4 Things To Do First
Whether you’re in the throes of your career, acclimating to an empty nest or getting ready for retirement, it’s crucial that retirement planning is started sooner rather than later.
At Financial Freedom, we believe it’s never too early to begin retirement planning. Based on your unique situation, we provide practical advice to help make our clients’ financial dreams a reality.
If you don’t have a retirement plan in place, contact us and start the conversation. If you think you’re ready to take the leap into retirement, here are 4 things you’ll want to do before giving your notice.
1. Define How You Want Your Retirement to Look
What does retirement look like to you? Do your retirement plans involve traveling the world or are you hoping to stay close to home and spend time with grandchildren? Are you and your spouse on the same page? Knowing how you plan to spend your days in retirement is an important, and often overlooked, step.
The first step in creating a thorough, comprehensive financial plan should be establishing the goals that you want to reach. Even a “simple” life can cost money. Think about it: If you want to maintain your current lifestyle when you are no longer bringing in a regular paycheck, you need to plan so you can actually make that happen.
While the amount of money needed to live your retirement dreams varies, a plan on how to get there is essential. Once you establish where it is you want to go, only then can you put together the roadmap for how to get there.
Talking with an experienced financial advisor can also help recognize possible detours and threats to your plan, things like:
- Loss of spouse
- Caring for your parents
- Caring for your adult children
- Loss of job
Planning for the unexpected can help you move forward when roadblocks appear. A financial advisor is skilled to look at a situation in its entirety and can help you plan for the future you want, and help you adjust if needed.
2. Look at the Numbers
Step 1 may be the fun part. Step 2 is often the hard part.
Once you have your goals established, the next thing you and your financial advisor should do is crunch the numbers. How much will you need to live on – housing, food, utilities? How much will you need on hand – for taxes, planned vacations, home repairs, emergencies? How much will your health care cost when you’re retired? What sources of income will you have? How will Social Security benefits work and how should you utilize your pension or retirement plans?
You can find several retirement calculators online, and they can be helpful, but what these features can’t provide is insight into your specific situation. Your goals. Your plans.
Retirement planning is all about answering two critical questions:
- Do I have sufficient assets so I won’t run out of money?
- Will I be able to achieve my retirement and life goals based on the assets and income I have available during retirement?
Getting ready for retirement on your own can often lead to more stress and money than you had planned. For example, do you stay abreast of ever-changing tax laws? Are you aware of the estate planning documents that will protect your loved ones if you leave this world unexpectedly?
Crunching the numbers can be difficult and a financial advisor may be aware of special programs and laws that will benefit you. It’s always encouraged to seek the help of an expert when you can. If you had a medical issue, you’d seek the professional advice of a doctor, right? The same can be said about your retirement plan.
At Financial Freedom, our fee-only retirement planning process allows our team of financial planners to dig into your unique situation. You worked hard to get to retirement and it’s our job to understand the nuances of your situation along with your goals.
After gaining an in-depth understanding of your needs, we develop retirement planning projections that include necessary annual savings, inflation, income taxes, desired spending in retirement, health care concerns, a retirement timeline, special retirement goals (i.e. gifting, travel, inheritance) and sources and strategies for retirement income (Social Security, pensions, use of the portfolio, etc.). We also focus on tax and income planning strategies, which can enhance these efforts.
3. Review Your Investments
As you age, you may need to adjust the amount of risk you’re taking. You may be able to get away with aggressive investing when you’re still bringing home a paycheck, but what happens when that paycheck stops?
Perhaps you’ve been saving money for retirement since you landed your first “real” job, or maybe you didn’t even think about retirement until your 50s. Depending on where you are in the process, the amount of risk you’re taking with your investments is important. At Financial Freedom, we work with clients in three phases of retirement planning:
Phase I: Helping you build wealth while you’re young.
Phase II: Managing your portfolio with a target retirement date in mind.
Phase III: Ensuring your post-retirement financial needs are met.
As you can see, each phase allows for a different level of risk. Before you take the leap into retirement, talk with a financial advisor to make sure you’re positioned in the right place.
4. Think About Your Life Expectancy
People are living longer, so how do you ensure you won’t outlive your money? It’s a question we get a lot. And one that should be considered closely when getting ready for retirement.
Another part of this is estate planning. Are your beneficiaries up-to-date? Are your assets properly divided? Are the amounts in your will still accurate and appropriate?
Another common misconception is that estate planning only deals with issues after you pass away, but that’s not true. For example, clients of all ages should address the problem of potential incapacity due to physical or mental disability. Who do you want to make decisions for you if you are no longer able to care for yourself? And how do you want that care to look like? How do you want it paid for?
Remember, if you don’t have an estate plan put in place, the state in which you live in does. And you probably won’t like it!
Many financial advisors work closely with an estate lawyer to ensure all of your financial and retirement needs are handled under one roof. If you’re currently working with a financial advisor, ask if they also cover your estate planning needs. Afterall, estate planning should be part of your overall financial plan.