We aren’t preparing, at least not the way we should. We think about retirement, but many of us put off planning for it and organizing our finances in such a way as to truly prepare for this major life transition. Much of this is because information rains down on us from every source imaginable and it’s difficult to get away. If you are avoiding doing something this important, you should probably pay attention to the following bits of advice. Let’s start with the basics, because it’s often the simplest steps that get us to where we need to go.
According to a December 2013 survey in USA Today, only 40 percent of long-term couples (together for longer than 15 years) have developed a list of goals for the future. You and your partner are on a journey, and it’s been our experience that the journey is much smoother when partners communicate early and often about what their plans will be. Identifying goals may seem an obvious place to start, but doing so truly is not only the first but also the most important step in achieving anything.
Retirement planning should include estate planning, which is not the most uplifting of topics. This part of planning should be made a part of the process early on, when there’s no immediate urgency and you and your advisor can make unemotional decisions that are best for you and your family—it’s much more difficult to do later in life.
Getting the Most Out of Your Savings
You’ve most likely had an income throughout your life. But once you stop working, your savings are like a mountain that you want to be able to live on, without that mountain getting smaller. If you receive a lump-sum payout—quite possibly more money than you’ve ever had before—it’s normal to think that it’s going to last forever, but it won’t without proper planning in the form of an accurate evaluation and the creation of a hard-line budget.
What about Long-Term Care?
Here’s a surprising statistic: As many as 80 percent of Americans over the age of 65 will need long-term care averaging an astounding $5,000 to $22,000 a month for up to five years. This, of course, will exhaust the savings of most people in a very short amount of time. Your advisor can help you plan for this, and if he or she doesn’t mention it, you need to think long and hard about whether or not they are looking out for your best interests.
Social Security, Social Security, Social Security
At what age should you take Social Security? Taking it too early means getting less over time, while with the possibility of means testing or delayed benefits, taking it too late could also cost you money. Each person’s situation is unique, so a careful evaluation of your goals and circumstances is an important part of retirement planning and something every person should do.