Being ready to retire means having the wherewithal to support a retirement lifestyle. It also involves having a plan that will withstand fiscal scrutiny and leave you stress free during your retirement years. Here are 10 steps that will help you determine whether you are ready to leave your job behind.
1. List Your Expenses
Start with a list of recurring bills that are likely to follow you into retirement. Most people plan to live off between 70 and 75 percent of their pre-retirement income. Some expenses will go down in retirement—unless you plan to travel a lot or take up an expensive new hobby. One expense likely to go up is healthcare.
2. Deal with Debt
For most people, their largest debt is their mortgage. It’s best to go into retirement mortgage-free, but that’s not always possible. One option is selling your home and downsizing to something less expensive.
Other debt includes car loans and credit card balances. If you can eliminate only one type of debt, credit card debt should be your target. Credit cards have the highest interest rates and are harder to pay off than most other types of debt.
3. Complete Major Projects
Before you retire, tackle major projects, such as a roof replacement or buying a vacation home or new car. Paying for these projects out of retirement savings can drain those accounts fast.
4. Add Up Family Costs
Consider expenses related to children or adults who are financially dependent on you. Expenses can include daily living costs, college tuition, caring for a special needs child or adult, or caring for aging parents.
5. Remember Health Insurance
If you are thinking about retiring before the age of 65, Medicare will not be an option. Health insurance on the private market or marketplace exchange can be expensive. If you have socked away funds in a health savings account, you can draw on it tax free to pay for medical expenses. Another option to look into is retiree health insurance through your former employer.
Once Medicare is available, in addition to premiums, there will still be deductibles, co-pays, and the cost of both dental and vision care. And you will need Part D drug insurance, plus a Medigap policy (unless you choose a Medicare Advantage Plan that covers medications).
6. Factor In Inflation
The historical norm for inflation is 3 percent. At that rate, your expenses could double in 25 years. One way to protect your retirement savings is by purchasing Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS). TIPS preserve capital by paying interest that keeps up with inflation. TIPS are considered a safe investment since they are backed by the federal government. CDs and Money Market funds, while safe investments, rarely keep up with inflation.
7. Total Up Income
Income might include Social Security, pensions, retirement savings accounts and other investments. Full retirement age for Social Security is 66 or 67, depending on your birth year. At 70, if you wait to apply, you will receive the maximum benefit.
As for the total you should have saved up, Fidelity Investments suggests a sum that’s at least 10 times your pre-retirement income if you plan to retire at age 67. You can use some of your savings to purchase an immediate fixed annuity to provide guaranteed income. Many retirees depend on dividend-paying stocks for an income stream and, of course, at the center of your retirement income picture is your 401(k), pension(s) or IRA(s).
Conventional wisdom dictates you can withdraw 4 percent of your savings per year (assuming at least a 4 percent return on investments); the money should last at least 30 years. Some experts think in the current interest rate environment, that taking out a little less is prudent.
8. Build a Budget
From your total income subtract your expenses and debt. This will tell you whether you are financially ready to retire. If not, look for ways to increase income or reduce expenses. One way to increase income is with a part-time job. There are many ways to reduce expenses by eliminating things that are unnecessary, such as 400 cable TV channels. Remember to allow for taxes and don’t forget required minimum distributions (RMDs) that apply to all retirement accounts (except Roth) when you reach age 70½.
9. Check Your Emotional Readiness
If you love your job and can’t imagine not going to work, it may not be time to give that up. If you haven’t given thought to what you will do in retirement, do so now. Should you work part-time, even if you don’t need the money? For many people working part-time in retirement is their social outlet. What about volunteering, turning a hobby into a business or traveling? Consider these things and your interest in them before declaring yourself emotionally ready to retire.
10. Get Professional Advice
Sit down with a trusted financial adviser to double-check your numbers and make sure your nest egg will support retirement. If it won’t, now is the time to find out. As exciting as retirement sounds, it is a big step and you should make the move only when you know you are ready financially and emotionally.