Strategically preparing for retirement is crucial in order to have a secure financial future, but can be an overwhelming process filled with questions and uncertainty. Where do you begin? What comes next? What should your priorities be? This Retirement Readiness Checklist can help keep you on track and confident with your savings strategy!
Take inventory of your assets
Before you can think about your future retirement readiness, the first thing you need to do is evaluate where you currently stand financially. Consider your expenses compared to your income and budget, then write down every debt, liability, savings balance, income stream, and insurance policy you have. Don’t forget about properties, vehicles, and other valuable possessions that also affect your bottom line. A good way to do this is by creating a worksheet that you can add to, edit, and refer to on a regular basis. This process will allow you to assess your current financial situation and plan quickly and conveniently.
Build an emergency fund
Before you take any major financial step, you want to be sure you’re protected should things not go according to plan. Hopefully, you aren’t learning about emergency funds for the first time when you’re within years of retirement. But, if you have somehow gotten this far without a financial security blanket, now’s absolutely the time to create one. It will cover you in the event of personal catastrophe, and it can also make up for delays in the start date of your pension or Social Security.
Eliminate all debt
In an ideal world, we’d all enter retirement without any debt. Since your income in retirement is likely to decrease, any fixed payments will start to take up a larger share of your expenses. If you’re nearing retirement, it’s time to take a look at the debt column of your inventory. Add interest rates and terms in a new column beside your outstanding debts.
So, how should you tackle your debts? There are generally two thoughts on where to start: either by paying down debts with the smallest balance or ones with the highest interest rates. If you’re able to, we suggest starting with highest-interest-rate debts. This is usually credit card debt, followed by personal loans and car loans. We don’t just mean hitting the monthly minimum—to really make a dent, you’ll have to put as much money as you can to paying down your priority debt, without sacrificing making the minimum payments on other debts. Mortgages are a good debt to save for last, as these tend to have lower interest rates.
Determine your retirement needs
Before you can retire, you have to decide how you want to retire and the lifestyle you’re expecting. Consider where you want to live, whether you’ll have a job (some people like to continue working part-time or remotely in retirement), and what your expenses will be. Try to be realistic in terms of retirement length, depending on your age and health status at retirement. While this can be difficult to predict, you can always refine your estimate and adjust your spending habits down the line if necessary.
Plan your estate
No one likes to think about their passing, but as you near retirement, you’re also realistically getting closer to the end of your life. Being prepared with an estate plan will ensure your family is not plagued with financial burden after you’re gone, and that your money is properly dispersed according to your desires.
Consider Life Insurance
Although life insurance may seem like something you only need to consider later in life, life insurance policies can provide benefits throughout your entire life span, including whole life policies that build cash value. Consider the following questions:
- How financially stable you would be if your spouse passed away tomorrow?
- Does your spouse have life insurance? Are you the named beneficiary?
- Are you raising children or grandchildren?
Put your plan in writing
In addition to creating a will, you’ll also need to assign a power of attorney and healthcare proxy to make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. You’ll also need to establish guardians for living dependents and appoint beneficiaries on life insurance plans, retirement accounts, and shared assets. Consider taxes here too, as you don’t want your estate bequeathed to the IRS. You can also craft a letter with any information that hasn’t been accounted for, like desired funeral arrangements or dissemination of sentimentally valuable family heirlooms.
Protect that plan
Ensure all documents are properly notarized and stored somewhere safe with a lock. Include an inventory of personal data like your Social Security number, date of birth, bank account numbers, insurance policy numbers, and digital passwords to keep things organized and easy to access. After you’ve created your plan, remember to review it at least every five years, or whenever you experience a life-changing event, to make sure everything you’ve chosen and documented is up-to-date and still valid.
Investigate retirement investments
It’s never a bad thing to continue generating income in retirement. One of the worst mistakes American workers make is designing their investment portfolio around their retirement date. This leaves little earnings potential for their post-retirement life. Investigate how additional retirement investments could supplement your retirement account earnings.
Consider an annuity
If your fixed expenses exceed your monthly income, or if you’re concerned about outliving the money you’ve saved for retirement, think about annuitizing part of your retirement savings. An annuity is a financial product that yields a fixed stream of payments, and is a great option because they offer a lot of flexibility while still providing financial security. It can be structured to release payments for a fixed number of years to you or your heirs, for the rest of your lifespan, or a combination of both.
Information courtesy of smartasset.com and NAIC.com
Once you’ve completed this checklist, you’ll have a solid foundation when it comes to your retirement savings plan! For more information on life insurance and annuities as part of your retirement plan, call us at 1-800-THE-KSKJ (1-800-843-5755).
KSKJ Life does not provide, tax, legal or accounting advice. Please consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors regarding your retirement products.