Retirement Checklist

The retirement age is between 65 to 67 years old, according to the Social Security Administration. Knowing when to retire, however, is not an overnight decision. Planning allows you to have a comfortable and secure retirement. With the help of a financial advisor, you will be guided through your retirement goals. Here is a checklist to consider to ensure a smooth retirement in the future.

1. Know Your Financial Situation

This is the first and most important thing you need to do before moving into retirement. You want to know how much money you have right now, what your monthly income looks like and how long that will last you if all goes well. For this, it is best to sit down with a financial advisor who can help you determine everything about your current finances.

2. Decide What You Want to Do in Retirement

You don’t have to work for the next 30 years or so of your life just because that’s what everyone else does. Set yourself free from the corporate world. Find out what makes you happy—what will keep you mentally stimulated? Is working with children something that interests you? Or maybe landscaping and gardening? Are you a writer? A painter? A photographer? If you have been working for so long, it’s time to find out what makes you happy.

3. Establish a Retirement Budget

Retirement will definitely require a huge adjustment to your spending habit. Most likely, you will be spending more money on food, medical expenses, and other regular monthly bills. Now is the time to adjust your lifestyle accordingly so you are not living beyond your means after retirement. A few years from now, when you enter retirement and have all the money in the world coming in each month, a budget will be a great help to you so you can spend your cash wisely.

4. Maximize Pension and Social Security Benefits

Retirement is so much more than just a time to relax, travel or pursue hobbies. It’s insurance for the future—a way to keep you financially stable. If you have yet to work 30 years enough by law to receive Social Security benefits, then now is the hard part because all that money that’s supposed to be reserved for your retirement will go into financing today’s social security system. But there are ways around this through maximizing pension and social security benefits. You can ask your employer if he could contribute back to your pension fund rather than paying it out as income tax or other deductions. This way, what should have been deducted from your paychecks will be added back again into your pension fund.

5. Gear Up Your Emergency Fund

In order for everything in this list to work, you’ll need a stockpile of cash—exactly what an emergency fund is meant for. Start saving up enough money that will be used to cover any emergencies, such as unforeseen accidents and sicknesses or damages to properties or losses from natural disasters which may happen before your retirement comes along.

6. Settle All Liabilities

You should spend the rest of your working years settling all liabilities ahead of time so you can leave a clean financial slate when the time comes to retire. There are old debts that have yet to be settled like loans and credit card bills; make sure these are paid off on time—or even better early, to avoid late payment penalties. There are liabilities you might have incurred when you purchased your home or paid for your car, etc.—these also need to be settled in advance so they won’t burden you in the future. Make sure everything is in order by the time you’re ready to retire.

7. Hammer Out Your Health Insurance

You can’t afford to get sick when you’re old—or even worse, too old to take care of yourself. So it’s best to prepare early for this and start saving up enough money now so that when the time comes, you’ll have health insurance coverage with a good HSA. Health insurance is an absolute necessity once you retire. If your employer does not offer group health plans for retirees, then you need to have your own. You can take advantage of the coverage offered by Medicare or do some research on the many health care plans offered in your state. Select the one that fits you best and is suited for your lifestyle.

8. Prepare an Estate Plan

It can be morbid to talk about death early on, but you must think about this one of these days. A good estate plan is a wise investment for you and your family. It can help ensure they will receive what you set out for them in the event of your untimely death. If you haven’t done so yet, it’s time to start planning for this now—so that there won’t be any problems for your loved ones to handle.

9. Manage Your Retirement Savings Plans Wisely

You’ve worked hard enough for your retirement so make sure you don’t squander it away when you finally receive the money. Plan out your withdrawals and tax payments wisely so that you won’t have to pay anything more than what’s necessary. It will be helpful to familiarize yourself with the rules in regards to withdrawals, contribution limits, and penalties if you have yet to start working on your retirement fund.

10. Reach Out to a Financial Advisor

A financial advisor isn’t someone who will just help with your credit card bills or loans—although he can also do that. A financial advisor is one of the most important people in your life before you retire because he’ll help you plan and prepare everything that will make sure your golden years are as golden as possible. Even with this checklist, there are still things that only a financial advisor can advise on—those pertaining to legalities or specific opportunities, etc. Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional advice from a financial advisor.

The Bottom Line

Being prepared for retirement is the start to wonderful and stress-free golden years.  Although no one can say for certain what will happen in the future, it’s definitely a good idea to get yourself ready as much as possible before you retire—you’ll thank yourself later when you’re enjoying life without any hassles.

Then you should start saving up now so that whatever time comes, you'll have enough money lying by to finance your daily needs. If you don't already have an employer-provided group health plan, consider getting a private one to protect yourself.
Paying them off earlier so they won't burden you in the future is a good idea. If your debts are big, it might be better to get a personal loan and settle all of them in advance instead of taking the risk of paying penalties and more interest when you retire.
The expenses of healthcare can be quite high—even for minor procedures. You don't want to leave your family with such a burden, so better get prepared by having one before you retire.
A financial advisor will be able to assess your situation and advise you on the best ways to make sure you'll have enough funds in the future. He can also suggest investment plans that may work better than what you've been doing on your own, among other things.
The ideal age for retirement depends on each person's situation. A financial advisor will be able to determine that for you based on his assessment of your current state and how much money you've already set aside—or if there is enough in the future.

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

About the Author
True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website, view his author profile on Amazon, or check out his speaker profile on the CFA Institute website.