As you prepare to retire, you may wonder what you’re missing. This Retirement Checklist will make sure you get off to a great start.
Because let’s be honest, you can hit every point but one…and that one missed point could be the most important.
And so, we have compiled a list of what we believe to be the top ten most important things for your retirement checklist.
To be clear: you can get ready to retire at any age. In fact, the earlier the better. So whether you’re 30 years old or 60, let’s dive into the ten most important things to cover as you prepare for retirement.
Your Retirement Checklist, Prioritized
If we’re being honest, there are more than ten things you need to do to get ready for retirement. However, we want to make sure your retirement plan has good bones—that you have a solid foundation and strategy you can build upon.
So, let’s start with that retirement checklist, in countdown fashion.
10. Choose a Financial Partner
You might have a lifelong partner (a spouse) with whom you share a retirement dream. However, if that partner doesn’t have retirement finance knowledge, we advise that you add one more person to the mix.
There’s Medicare, Social Security, taxes, penalties…and that’s just the beginning of countless trails that you’ve never before had to navigate. A financial planner or accountant who specializes in retirement strategies is going to prove necessary as you move down this retirement checklist.
9. Write a Will
Yes, your money is yours to enjoy as you wish during retirement. However, it’s also yours to use to plan your legacy. It’s not just about making sure your children inherit as much of your estate as possible, it’s about making sure they’re not tied up in probate when they should be enjoying memories of you with one another.
8. Create a Retirement Vision
Too many people go into retirement with a “let’s see” attitude, and no vision. This might seem to go along with a carefree retirement, but here’s the thing: if you have no vision, you can’t possibly know how much money you’ll need.
When you know where you’ll live, if you’ll have part-time employment, what your other costs will be…then you can establish a financial plan that will carry you through retirement.
7. Eliminate Debt
One of the worst things you could do for your retirement is to enter into it with high-interest debt. You will not be earning the same amount of money you are now during retirement, and your expenses may stay the same or only be somewhat reduced.
Make paying off high-interest debt your first priority. Next, pay off moderate-interest-rate debt. And then, in accordance with a financial expert’s advice, decide whether you’ll make contributions to a retirement account or pay off low-interest debt.
6. Save, Save, Save
If your employer is matching your 401K contributions, take full advantage of that. Dump money into a traditional IRA or Roth IRA. Diversify so that all your money isn’t fodder for the market. And remember that not spending is the twin sibling of saving. Audit your own budget to make sure you’re not throwing money away on subscriptions, memberships and fees you’re no longer benefiting from. Make economical choices now so you can live the retirement of your dreams later.
5. Understand Tax Implications
Taxes during retirement are different animals than all the taxes you’ve known up until now. The types of accounts are different, payouts are different, taxes and rates are different…and making one wrong decision could cost you a lot of hard-earned income.
So, work with an accountant or financial advisor (we highly recommend Smartasset) who is well-versed in retirement taxes. That person can help you keep more of your money.
4. Know Social Security
The best way to go into retirement is with a degree in Social Security. Just kidding…there is no such thing, but we always suggest that you do a lot of reading and/or consult with a financial expert who knows Social Security.
Much like retirement taxes, Social Security brings with it plenty of pitfalls that could blow the rest of your plan. It’s important to know your best time to retire in order to draw the best benefits, the rules of engagement while you’re drawing Social Security, and changes to the rules that can happen on a yearly basis.
3. Understand Medicare and Healthcare
Medicare.gov will be a website you visit often as you navigate the many twists and turns of Medicare. There are a number of plans to choose from, and you may find yourself shopping for supplemental health insurance and/or prescription coverage.
Healthcare costs will continue to rise, and therefore it’s important to have the peace of mind in knowing you’ll be covered…and that your life’s investment won’t be eaten up if unexpected health costs arise. So talk to your retirement professional about an HSA, supplemental plans, open enrollment and much more.
2. Plan Your Retirement Income and Withdrawals
Did you know that when you retire, you’re not just going to make withdrawals from a savings account? There must be a structured strategy for payouts that maximize your dollar and minimize taxes, fees and penalties.
Planning for this will involve establishing a budget and a payout plan, both of which will be best supported when a financial planner with retirement flair gets involved.
1. Protect Your Retirement Nest Egg
Scams and predatory practices are everywhere, and the closer you get to retirement, the more prevalent they become. Why? Because as we age, we’re less likely to have a good handle on current technological trends, and we also tend to have more money to steal.
Never open a link in an email from someone you don’t know (or from someone you do know that sounds suspicious). Never give personal information (Social Security number, bank account number) over the phone or through the mail. Unfortunately, we have to exercise suspicion in order to protect our retirement funds…and our futures.
Retirement is Always Better with a Checklist
Retirement doesn’t ask if we are planners, or if we enjoy planning for the future…it simply requires it.
There’s no forgiveness for “winging it” as you move closer every day to the end of your career and the beginning of the brand-new retirement you’ve been dreaming of.
So let’s make sure those dreams become reality.
Keep this retirement checklist handy as you get ready to retire, and be sure to take The Senior Life along for the ride. We have health, financial and wellbeing advice, as well as games to keep your mind sharp. Join us!