Five Steps Toward a Confident Retirement
No matter where you are on the road to retirement, it’s natural to feel a little worried. Will you have enough to support yourself? Are you doing enough? Are you on the right track? Since one-third of boomers have no money saved for retirement[i], the good news is that having even some savings puts you ahead.
At the same time, some financial experts are saying the average retiree may need more than $1 million saved to get through a 30-year retirement.[ii] The reality, like most things in life, is that one size doesn’t fit all. It’s as individual as your fingerprint. Do you want to feel confident about your retirement preparation? This article will outline five steps that should reassure or help to get you onto the right path.
Visualize the Future
The first step is the retirement plan. This is the place to really imagine your perfect retirement scenarios. Where do you want to be? How do you want to spend your days? What do you want to stay the same and what do you want to change? Hate the winters and want to relocate to a warmer climate? Too much house now that the kids are gone? Want to relocate closer to grandkids? Go back to college? Stay in your home? Start a new business? Volunteer? Learn a new language? Travel or even live overseas? This is the time to do it. You can’t make a real plan for affording the future until you have at least a rough outline of what that future will be.
It is imperative that communication lines are open with spouses and those close to you. Make sure everyone is on the same page about where, how and when, to retire. You may be surprised to find you and your spouse have entirely different ideas for the future, but a large-scale study showed a whopping 80% of couples disagree about a major component of retirement planning.[iii] That’s quite a high number, so making sure that discussions are happening and compromises are being made everyone agrees before moving ahead.
Make a Budget
Once you have an idea of what your ideal retirement scenario would look like, the next step is creating a budget. This is where fantasy can become a reality. How much do you have? How much would your daily life cost? Factor in all the little things like groceries, medicine, transportation, taxes, etc. Factor in going out to eat, gifts, vacations, etc.
In a perfect world, you want to have enough to afford that total number for thirty years. Now, if the number you come up with is wildly misaligned with what you have saved, then you need to make some changes. You may want to downsize or relocate to a smaller and more cost-effective housing option. You may need to postpone your retirement and work longer, giving you more time to save up and a higher social security monthly payment. You may want to work part-time into retirement. There are many options. The more you understand what you need to get what you want, the better the odds you can achieve it.
Make it a Reality
The challenge once you have a plan and goal number, is taking the idea and making it a reality. First off, you want to be taking advantage of any workplace matched savings programs, and be putting in maximum contributions. Boomers are entering retirement with a lot of debt, more than any previous generation in fact[iv], so paying down what you can while you are still working will make a huge difference.
Seeking trusted financial advice from professionals will be beneficial. Debt or credit counselors, accountants, or accredited financial advisors depending on your specific situation[v]. This is a challenging step because it will force you to be realistic. You may not be able to afford the luxurious retirement you had imagined, but with enough time and preparation, you should be able to achieve something close to it.
You may have to make some sacrifices, tightening the belt to save for the future, downsizing homes and vehicles, making hard choices. The consolation is, that the hard work and austerity will pay off, with confidence and security into your later years.
You are in a good spot now, you have a plan, you’ve made a budget, and you are saving and investing to get to that budget for a secure retirement. Great! The next step is to ensure that you don’t get knocked off the path by the unexpected. You need to protect your investments and your legacy. This means you need all your documents in order and up to date. Life and Health Insurance, up to date beneficiaries, living wills, power of attorney, etc. You need to make sure you are protected today and down the line, as things change in the future. We can’t know what is around the bend, but we can plan for myriad scenarios.
Frank discussions with spouses and family about your wishes. Keeping all pertinent documents secure and accessible. The more we can prepare with time and clear heads, the better prepared we will be down the line.
Retirement saving often spans decades and knowing where you are on the path can be a bit abstract. Creating small checkpoints can help give you peace of mind, or be a warning flag before a big issue arises.
The long-term game of retirement can be stressful, especially with the mercurial nature of the stock market and the 24-hour news cycle. Checking your stocks daily, for example, if often inadvisable and can be distressing, but, quarterly reports, or even just a big yearly financial investment report, may help you to stay on the right path without creating undue stress. The goal is to alert you to your progress and give space to make an adjustment.
Dreams Can Come True
We can’t know the future, but with time and imagination, we can create an idea of what our retirement will look like. Once we have that, it becomes easier to attach a number to that fantasy and figure out how best to reach it. Merging the fantasy with reality can be challenging, but with creativity and the willingness to seek out expert counsel, a lot of the retirement stress can be alleviated. Good luck and happy retirement!
About the Author
Bob feels strongly that you only retire once leaving no room for mistakes. He is dedicated to building and more importantly preserving investors assets. Bob is a Financial Advisor with Cambridge, an independent broker-dealer, honored to be among the most respected firms in the industry.