I know, some of you simply need a basic list of what to do when planning your retirement, and when to do it. For you, here’s a general outline.
Pick a date!
You can’t predict the future, but you need to start somewhere. Retiring at 65 is no longer the default. Your target age should stem from your values, so revisit or define them.
Ten years out
This is a time to get a reality check on your financial life and start to envision what retirement will be like.
- Time to take a basic retirement planning class. Look to your local community college, retirement system pension planners, or professional organizations. You’re not trying to become an expert or nail down your plan. But you are trying to figure out what you need to know and what you need to think about.
- How much money have you saved in a 401(k), 403(b) or other retirement account? Do you need to save more? Will you need to work longer? Do you need to adjust your allocations to make them more aggressive or (more likely) conservative
- Will you get a pension? When will you reach the vesting requirements? How much will you receive? How will it be paid out? In a lump sum, monthly, etc.?)
- Do you have a copy of your Social Security statement? How much can you expect to receive?
- What other assets and investments can contribute to your retirement? Are there any potential drains on your income?
- Start having conversations with your close friends and family members about your vision for your “retirement.” How do you want to spend your time? What skills might you want to keep using in part-time or volunteer work?
Five years out
- Revisit the questions from 10 years out.
- This is a good time to start a journal. Take some of those daydreams you put away and make them more specific. For example, rather than “spend time with grandkids,” you might write “spend two dinners a week with grandchildren.”
Two years out (or less)
Time to get serious.
- Make sure your partner/spouse is involved, if you have one and they aren’t already. Communicate and negotiate with them about how you expect to spend your days and money.
- Hire a financial planner if you haven’t already done so. You want a fiduciary. The Financial Planning Association is a great place to find one.
- Create a realistic budget. Figure out if you’ll need to work for income or where you may need to cut back on expenses.
- Figure out when you’ll take Social Security, whether and when you will sign up for Medicare, etc.
- Turn that “stake in the ground” into a real retirement date. Put a date in the calendar to retire, whether you share this with your employer or not.
- Get more specific about how you’ll spend your newly found time.
I often say it’s not about the plan, it’s about planNING. Life happens. Mid-flight corrections are necessary, and you can’t schedule those. But following this schedule will help minimize the changes and the surprises.