Many people keep checklists for a wide variety of different activities — everything from their daily chores and to-do’s to items they need to take with them on vacation. But have you ever thought about creating a checklist for your retirement?
Doing so is especially important if you are nearing the age and date when you plan to retire. This is the time when you should be hitting the homestretch of what has hopefully been a lifetime of retirement planning and saving. With the finish line in sight, you should be making final preparations for the financial transition from your working life to your retirement life.
Here are 5 tasks that Frontier would consider adding to your retirement checklist:
- Review all of your company benefits. These likely include some kind of employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan or maybe a pension or profit-sharing plan. These plans may account for the bulk of your retirement financial resources, so set aside time now to review your current account balances and project these balances going forward into your early retirement years.
In addition to a retirement plan, you might also have access to retiree medical coverage through your employer. If so, determine exactly what these benefits are, when they begin and what you must do to remain eligible. Also, Frontier suggests that you plan strategies for the exercise of stock options if you own any of these.
- Decide when and how to start receiving Social Security benefits. You have a lot of flexibility when it comes to how and when you receive Social Security benefits. In short, you can start receiving benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. But if you start receiving benefits before you reach your full retirement age, your monthly benefits will be smaller than if you wait until full retirement or beyond.
Many different factors will go into making the right decisions about Social Security. For example, if you plan to work part-time in retirement or have significant non-Social Security assets, you might be better off waiting to start receiving benefits. Your health might also be a factor: If you’re relatively healthy and your family has a history of longevity, waiting as long as possible to claim Social Security could increase your overall benefits.
- Sign up for Medicare. In certain circumstances, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B. If you aren’t, you can apply for Medicare Parts A and B starting three months before you turn 65 years old. You must sign up no later than three months after the month you turn 65 or you might have to pay a higher premium due to late penalties.
Keep in mind that your decision about when to start receiving Social Security retirement benefits has no impact on your eligibility to receive Medicare. So be sure to sign up for Medicare during this seven-month window if you aren’t automatically enrolled, even if you haven’t started receiving Social Security retirement benefits yet.
- Plan your retirement budget. One rule of thumb, from Frontier’s point of view, is to plan on needing about 70 percent of your pre-retirement income to live comfortably during your retirement years. But this is a highly subjective figure and every situation will be different.
For example, if you have paid off your home and are mortgage-free, you might need less money than this. But if you plan to build your dream home in retirement and travel around the world, there’s a good chance you’ll need more. So sit down with your spouse now and prepare a new budget for your retirement years so you have a good idea of what your income needs will be after you retire.
- Start planning your retirement account distribution strategies. Based on your new retirement budget, you can start figuring out how much money you’ll need to withdraw each month from your retirement account(s). Work with your financial advisor to strategize which retirement accounts should be tapped in which order to minimize tax liabilities and maximize overall distributions.
Remember that required minimum distributions (RMDs) apply to most qualified retirement accounts, like 401(k)s and IRAs. If you don’t start taking distributions from these accounts by a certain age, you could be subject to a 50 percent excise tax on the amounts not distributed as required.
Please contact us if you have more questions. We can help you create a retirement checklist that’s customized for your specific needs.