Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Your Pre-Retirement Checkup

If you are getting close to retirement, it is time to do a pre-retirement checkup.  You want to feel confident you will have enough retirement income to support yourself and your dependents; you also want to have a plan to make sure your money lasts the rest of your life.  While no one can guarantee your assets will last a lifetime, you do not want to retire until you feel fairly certain you will not outlive your money.

What is involved in a pre-retirement checkup?  How do you make sure you are ready to retire?

Organizing a Pre-Retirement Checkup

Of course, you should have been looking over your retirement plans throughout your working years, not just when you are about to retire.  The earlier you started planning, the more likely you are to have a satisfying retirement.  However, about five or six years before you think you will retire, you need to evaluate your plans more carefully.

Start with your annual Social Security benefit estimate.  How much income do you expect to receive at different potential ages?  Would you be better off if you postponed your retirement by a year or two, or even until age 70, in order to increase your income?  Remember, if you are married and have been the primary breadwinner, your spouse will also be affected by your decision.  The longer you wait to retire, the higher your income will be, as well as the income of your spouse.

Next, look at the size of your retirement savings account.  Many financial planners recommend retirees start by only withdrawing 3 percent a year, gradually increasing that amount by 0.03 percent a year, so they are sure their money will last the rest of their lives.  If you add that amount to your Social Security benefits, will you have enough income to maintain your current standard of living?

Do you have any other income which will supplement your Social Security and savings withdrawals?  For example, are you eligible to receive a pension in addition to Social Security or will you have a small income from a hobby, part-time job, rental property or other source?

Evaluate Your Living Expenses

Once you have a fairly good idea of how much income you will have, it is time to evaluate your current cost-of-living.  Are there expenses which you expect will be lower after you retire, including commuting costs, eating out, and buying work clothes?  Are there some expenses which you expect to be higher, such as taking trips or eating more meals at home?

If your estimated retirement cost-of-living far exceeds your future potential income, you may consider relocating to a less expensive area, getting a smaller home or taking other steps to reduce your expenses.  You may be able to make some of these adjustments before you retire and use the money you save while you are working to build up your retirement savings.

Talk to a Financial Planner

Even if you believe your retirement plans are in good shape, this is a good time to meet with a financial planner or investment advisor.  You want someone who will charge you an hourly fee to review your investments or a flat fee to manage your assets, and not someone who relies solely on commissions from the investments he sells you.  Ask the advisor to look over how your retirement assets are invested and recommend changes which could increase the growth of your assets over the remaining years before you retire.  Once you retire, you may want the financial planner to reallocate your assets in order to increase your income and reduce your risk.

In addition, a financial planner can help you determine how much more money you might need to put aside in savings during your remaining working years, what age you should begin to collect your Social Security, what changes you need to make to your lifestyle, and the tax ramifications of making withdrawals from your IRA or 401(k).  The financial planner can also help you decide if some of your current assets should be placed in a Roth IRA, to reduce your future taxes.

After going through all the numbers, first by yourself and then with a financial planner, you will feel much more confident about your retirement plans. Your goal is to be comfortable and confident when you stop working.

For an overview of retirement planning, watch for my book Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement which will be published by Griffin Publishing and Watering Seeds in the fall of 2017.

If you are interested in learning more about financial planning, where to retire, common medical issues and changing family relationships, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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