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Last month, I taught four half-day retirement planning workshops at the City College of San Francisco to more than 125 pre- and new retirees. The answers to their common questions about retirement are worth repeating here.

  • Sign up for Medicare.  For most, the time to sign up for Medicare is 90 days before your 65th birthday. But start preparing when you turn 64. There are many decisions to make, and your employer’s human resources department may not be helpful enough.
  • Fund your RLT. If you have a Revocable Living Trust (RLT) as part of your estate planning documentation (as most in the Bay Area do), make sure you have titled your large assets into the trust — that’s real estate, large brokerage accounts, etc. Consult your estate planning attorney for instructions specific to you and your assets.
  • Check your beneficiaries. Make sure your IRAs; 401(k), 457 and/or 403(b) plans, etc., have the proper beneficiaries. Also check your annuities and life insurance contracts.  Consult your estate planning attorney for instructions specific to you and your assets.
  • Manage your Social Security income timing. The once-great idea of “file and suspend” to maximize Social Security income is no longer allowed. When you apply for Social Security, you take your benefit or half of your spouse’s, and you won’t be able to change that election later. People in retirement systems (CalSTRS, CalPERS, CSRS, FERS, etc.) need to watch the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset rules, which can drastically reduce Social Security income.
  • Check your investment allocations. If it’s been a long time since you changed your investment allocations, you need to be more mindful of how much risk you are taking on as you get closer to retirement. Make sure your investments align with your willingness to lose money.
  • Explore buying long-term care insurance and/or life insurance. Having to pay for non-nursing care can be expensive. Plan ahead.

Retirement can be an amazing time of defining the legacy you intend to leave behind. Get these financial details squared away so you can enjoy this time, knowing you’ve managed your financial well-being.

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