At this point in your career, you’re fortunate enough to know retirement is only a year away. You’re ready to say goodbye to the workweek and hello to quiet days fishing, regular trips to the golf course and plenty of time with the grandkids.
But are you financially prepared for this new chapter in your life? You might think that your retirement planning will mostly be done one year before the big day arrives. But there are actually plenty of steps you need to complete a year before retirement to make sure you’re financially ready.
Here are five financial moves that you need to make a year before retiring to make sure that your life after retirement is happy and stress-free.
Start Planning and Budgeting
Nathan Garcia, a certified financial planner with Fulton, Maryland-based Strategic Wealth Partners, says that the key to a financially healthy retirement is planning for one. This means creating a new budget shortly before you retire, one that takes into account the changes to your lifestyle, income and expenses.
By creating a new household budget a year before you retire, you’ll know how much money you need to fund the lifestyle you want, Garcia said.
Part of this budgeting process includes drafting a list displaying all sources of income and where they come from. This chart should include all your income streams, including Social Security payments, withdrawals from your retirement savings, disability payments, rent payments, pensions and any other income source you have.
“Knowing where your ‘paycheck’ will come from will give you peace of mind as you transition into retirement,” Garcia said.
You can also use this planning period to determine how you will pay for medical expenses, which, according to Garcia, is one of the biggest costs retirees face. If you need to file for Medicare, set the date that you’ll submit your application. If you are not eligible for Medicare benefits before you retire, then Garcia advises you to set up independent coverage. This could be through COBRA, your employer’s insurance plan or a private policy.
Build Your Cash Reserves
Whether or not you actually have one, you know that you’re supposed to have an emergency fund while you’re working. This fund allows for unexpected events, everything from a burst hot water heater to a leaking roof.
But did you know that the need for an emergency fund might be just as high during your retirement years?
Sean McComber, president and chief investment officer with Columbia, Maryland-based Divergent Private Wealth Advisors, recommends that clients who are ready to retire should increase their cash reserves.
While his clients are working, McComber recommends that they maintain an emergency fund that can cover three to 12 months’ worth of their bills. But as they get closer to retirement, McComber helps them boost that fund, even doubling it in some cases, to protect themselves against economic downturns.
As McComber says, a downturn in the market shortly after you retire could have a dramatic impact on the long-term viability of your retirement plans. You will be far more likely to run out of money in later years if you must draw from your market investments during that early downturn, McComber said.
But this doesn’t have to happen if you first build up your cash reserves. McComber recommend that his clients increase the cash in their emergency fund so that they can cover 24 to 36 months’ worth of bills. This way, if a downturn does happen, you won’t have to draw from your investments while these investments at a lower value.
“I find that this is both mentally reassuring and increases the likelihood of a successful long-term plan,” McComber said.
Plan for Your Healthcare Needs
Healthcare is one of the biggest costs most retirees face. That’s why Jennifer Myers, a certified financial planner and president of SageVest Wealth Management in McLean, Virginia, said that you’ll need to plan for medical payments after retiring.
This is especially important if you are retiring before the age of 65. Retiring before this age means that you won’t be eligible for Medicare. Before you do retire, make sure to compare the rates for private insurance plans or COBRA coverage. Myers finds this research to be incredibly valuable because healthcare costs for individuals in their 60s can easily reach $1,000 a month. If you are retiring before you are eligible for Medicare, you’ll need a plan to cover those costs.
Even if you are covered by Medicare, you’ll need to know how much your Social Security payments will be reduced because of Medicare premiums. You’ll also have to factor in the costs of any supplemental coverage or other out-of-pocket medical expenses you might incur.
“Health insurance a large expense, sometimes second only to your mortgage,” Myers said. “It’s critical to know how your health coverage, and the costs for your coverage, might change to protect your physical and financial wellbeing.”
Get Rid of Unneeded Life Insurance
Lingke Wang, co-founder of Ethos Life Insurance in San Francisco, recommends that you evaluate your existing life insurance policies at least a year before you retire. As you get older, your beneficiaries might no longer need a payout from your life insurance policy. After all, children grow up and become independent. They may not need to rely on you for their financial wellbeing.
“Often, seniors find that their life insurance is no longer necessary after their children are grown and self-sufficient,” Wang said.
Wang recommends pre-retirees consider selling their life insurance policies directly to a life insurance provider or through a broker Not only will you eliminate an expense, you might also receive a significant cash sum from your policy. According to Wang, by selling the policy, pre-retirees will usually receive more money than they would by cashing out policies that they no longer need.
The key is to make sure that your life insurance policies are no longer needed, and that none of your beneficiaries are still counting on a payment from your insurance should you die.
Pay off Your Debts
Jennifer Myers has some advice about paying off debts before you retire.
“If you have credit card debt, it’s time to pay it off and say ‘goodbye’ to recurring balances,” Myers said.
You want to enter retirement as debt-free as possible. This means spending the last year before retirement making sure to pay extra on your credit cards, auto loans or mortgage. The fewer monthly payments you need to make before retiring, the better the odds are going to be that your post-work years will be stress-free.
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