September is National Preparedness Month, which is observed to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters or emergencies. We thought we’d take a bit of a different view on this theme and use it as an opportunity to highlight some of the items you may wish to “prepare for” as your retirement date approaches.
Set your retirement date
The most important step is setting your date. All other items depend on knowing your date of retirement.
Build an emergency fund
If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to build or reset your emergency fund. Review upcoming, near-term major expenses and set aside those funds in savings apart from your normal cash flow account. After you’ve set that aside, target about three-to-six months’ worth of expenses in savings as your emergency fund.
Review and lower your debt if necessary
If your debt is a fairly low number and the interest rate is reasonable, it may be to your advantage to retain the debt as long as you pay on schedule. However, larger, high-interest debt should be minimal as you approach your retirement date.
Draft what you want your retirement to look like
Retirement is major life transition/event. You should start preparing for the emotional shift of leaving your job for retirement. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where do you want to live?
- Do you want to downsize your home?
- How do you want to spend your time?
- What type of expenses are you going to have?
Review your estate plan
Retirement is a good time to review your estate documents and beneficiary designations. At a minimum, you should have a Will, Power of Attorney, and a Health Care Proxy. This is a good time to verify that the agents and executors are current. If you decide to move out of state in retirement, you should consult with an estate attorney in that state to see if anything needs to be updated. This is important because estate law is governed by your state of residence.
Determine what medical insurance you will need
Health insurance is one of the most important decisions at retirement. If you are pre-Medicare and live in NY, you can enroll at the NY State of Health website.
If you are Medicare eligible, you can enroll at Sign up for Medicare | SSA. Be sure to enroll within the proper time frame if you were covered under an employer plan. There could be late enrollment penalties for not signing up by the end of the seventh month after your group coverage ends.
Health Care Savings Accounts (HSAs)
If you have a health savings account paired with a high-deductible health plan and you are retiring, be sure you do not over-contribute to your HSA. Contributions are pro-rated for the number of months you are enrolled in a plan.
If you haven’t already, create an online social security account at SSA.gov and get a benefits estimate. Discuss with your advisor whether you should start taking your benefits as soon as you retire, if eligible, or if makes more sense to delay.
Your ability to take on risk in your portfolio may change in retirement. This is the time to review your portfolios and your risk assessment to make sure the portfolio is in line with your risk profile and your cash flow objectives in retirement.
This will obviously change in retirement. You should review your projected income sources and your expenses to set up a cash flow plan.
- Start migrating your personal files and information from your work computer. Review your current home computer and purchase a new one if warranted. Purchase a home printer if needed.
- Establish a personal email and update contacts to your personal email if appropriate.
- Migrate to using a personal calendar.
- Sign up for activities you identified as “How I want to spend my time.”
As always, we're here to help you with your retirement planning every step of the way. Contact us to speak with one of our expert financial advisors.