THE KEY IS PLANNING
"If only I'd known then what I know now ...."
Looking to the future is key to financial planning at any age, but especially in the decade or so before retirement. For many households, retirement is a time to fulfill dreams and delayed ambitions. It also can be a time of anxiety if you postpone thinking realistically about the ways your financial identity will change -- income, savings, investments, credit, insurance, job benefits, and perhaps living arrangements. Meeting the challenge of financial management will help remove uncertainty and increase your available options. Both partners need to be involved in retirement planning and may wish to discuss their plans with adult children.
Many people neglect planning. Some prefer to leave financial decisions to the other partner, while others simply find it too difficult to talk about money. Whatever the reason, if you have not yet begun planning, you may want to seek pre-retirement planning advice from a professional or a community service organization.
The decade before retirement is a good time to take inventory of assets and obligations and make financial choices aimed at maximizing future resources. These years are typically a peak earning period and they offer the chance to reduce most debts, such as a home mortgage, and increase savings and income-producing investments. Households faring the combined expenses of educating children and caring for aging parents may find saving difficult during pre-retirement years. In these cases, making a realistic financial appraisal is more useful. These are questions you might ask yourselves:
- What are our sources of retirement income and how much will each provide monthly or in a lump sum?
- Social Security
- Pensions, IRAs, Keoghs
- Savings and investments
- Sale of assets
- Home equity
When estimating how much income can be expected from these and other sources, remember to take inflation, taxes, and market fluctuations into account. Depending on your anticipated income potential, you may decide to postpone retirement a few years, or plan to work part-time.
Is our health insurance adequate for retirement? The cost of serious or long-term illness is a major burden for many older Americans because Medicare doesn't cover all health care costs. If you consider buying "medigap" insurance to supplement Medicare, shop carefully for a policy that supplements rather than duplicates Medicare coverage. Long-term health insurance for nursing home or home health care is new. Examine all terms of any such policy before you buy.