The decade leading up to retirement is often a time of both great anticipation and intimidation for future retirees—an entire new world of possibility is about to present itself, but will the necessary resources be available to take advantage of it?
The good news is that with a little bit of forethought, smart planning, and professional advice you can begin taking steps today to help ensure you are ready.
Review your Social Security options
Social Security will likely be an important component of your retirement income strategy. If you haven’t done so yet, sign up for an online my Social Security account which enables you to not only see an estimate of your benefits at various ages, but also to verify that your earnings record reflects all earnings that should be considered in your benefit calculation.
You may be able to claim your benefits as early as age 62, it could be beneficial to hold off until you reach your full retirement age—either 66 or 67 depending upon when you were born—or, if possible, age 70, when you will earn the maximum benefit. For those who collect benefits before their full retirement age and still work, there are restrictions on how much you can make before your benefits are reduced or eliminated. It’s important to be aware of the ways your marital status may affect your benefits as well.
Develop a retirement spending plan
Think about what you want your day-to-day retirement to look like, then take an in-depth look at what you will need in monthly income to support your desired retirement lifestyle: Will you stay in your current home? Downsize? Or relocate? What hobbies and passions do you hope to pursue? Will you travel? Each of these factors will contribute to your monthly expenses and how much you’ll need in savings to support you throughout retirement.
Get a handle on all sources of retirement income
It’s important during the years leading up to retirement that you get a handle on all potential sources of retirement income. Some common sources include:
- A 401(k)or similar retirement plan such as a 403(b) or other defined contribution plan.
- IRA accounts, both traditional and Roth.
- A pension.
- Stock options or restricted stock units.
- Social Security
- Taxable investment accounts.
- Cash, savings accounts, CDs, etc.
- Cash value in a life insurance policy
- Interest in a business
- Real estate
- Any income from working into retirement
For retirement and investment accounts, you will want to develop an investment strategy leading up to retirement as well as a withdrawal strategy – including taking the impact of taxes into account. Still other investments may need to be sold or liquidated to realize a cash value for use in retirement.
Is there a gap?
If there is a shortfall between the cost of your desired retirement lifestyle and the amount of retirement income your various anticipated retirement financial resources can reasonably generate, you have some decisions to make.
One option is to scale back your retirement lifestyle. This might mean a smaller, less expensive residence, a bit less travel, or other belt-tightening budget measures.
Another option is to ramp up your retirement savings. Be sure you are maxing out all contributions to retirement accounts as well as saving and investing in non-retirement accounts. The ten years prior to retirement are peak earning years for many, so try to save as much as possible during this time period for your retirement.
Another option is to work a few years longer, which can grant you a few more years to earn and save before you tap your retirement nest egg.
Medicare and other options
For those approaching retirement, it is critical to understand your eligibility and benefits under Medicare—the main source of medical coverage for many retirees—as well as how the program will work in conjunction with any benefits potentially available to you through your employer. (2) (The latter might be more common if you work in the public sector, though many private sector employers may still offer some sort of retiree medical benefit as well.)
It’s also important to think about your healthcare costs overall during the course of retirement. Factors to consider are medication, long-term care, co-pays and premiums.
Develop a withdrawal plan
Remember that a good portion of retirement savings are tax deferred, which means you will need a strategy for how and when you withdraw your money. Taxes in retirement can be considerable once you start tapping 401(k)s, IRAs and other tax-deferred retirement accounts.
Consider speaking with a professional
During the years leading up to retirement consider engaging the services of a qualified financial planner who can provide a detached, third-party view of your situation and offer concrete suggestions for how to maximize your resources.