Every so often I am returning to the roots of Satisfying Retirement and rerunning a post that deals strictly with the nuts and bolts of retirement. If you have yet to leave full-time work and have questions about what is ahead, I trust these posts will help you. If already retired, there is never a bad time to review what got you there and how to improve your experience.
What if you eventually want to retire, just not now? You are not there yet. Maybe it is a savings and money issue. Maybe you enjoy your job and the stimulation it gives you. Maybe your responsibilities with your family must be front and center for now. Maybe retirement scares you a bit. That just makes you normal. For whatever reason, you want to remain in the workforce but would like some suggestions on how to prepare for the day when you are ready.
Here are some important concerns:
A) Make Your Financial Projections: Get a paper and pencil, spreadsheet program on your computer, or anything that will help you with the following:
What is your projected income from now until you retire? Obviously, this is a guess. Your job might disappear tomorrow. But, based on your past situation, you should be able to make an educated guess of what you expect to make from now until you do retire.
What do you expect to receive from Social Security? Avoid the "it won't be there for me" panic attack. We don't know the future, but we know the present. If Social Security undergoes revisions, those changes won't take effect immediately, they will be well into the future. So, for now, use what is real today.
You get a yearly report that tells you what you can expect based on your past earnings. Do you think you will have to take your payments as early as allowed, or will you be able to wait? There are logical reasons for both courses of action that are based on your status. Add that monthly amount to your projections.
What is the current status of your retirement savings and investments? You can't predict what the market will do. You can project how much you plan on saving and investing in the years ahead. Using a conservative growth projection, what should you have when you are ready to retire? What do you need to have available when you retire?
Here's a biggie: what about health care costs? None of us knows what the future holds in this area. Personally, the only thing I expect is prices to continue to rise, deductibles and copays to increase, and coverage to get skimpier. Plan on a 10-15% increase every year until you are eligible for Medicare (or its successor). Even after you turn 65, the average American will spend $250,000 on medical care. Budget for that often forgotten expense.
OK, now with those figures available to you, can you live on that for 30 years? People in good health today who are in their 40s or 50's can expect to live into their late 80s or mid-90s. If you retire sometime around 65, you will have to take care of yourself for another 20-30 years. Can you?
B) Make Your Lifestyle projections: Your financial situation will determine the overall structure of the life you will lead in retirement. Lifestyle issues will determine the quality: whether it is enjoyable and satisfying. Are you ready?
Where will you live? Many folks want to escape weather they don't like and use retirement as the motivation to move somewhere more to their liking. Or, their family lives somewhere else in the country and moving closer would make them happier.
Others like the roots they have established where they are, have family and friends nearby, and don't want to go anywhere. Moving to a retirement community on the other side of the country would never cross their mind. Aging in place is the plan.
Do you envision yourself in an "active adult" community, an age-restricted setup, an urban or rural environment, or selling everything and becoming a nomad in an RV?
What about the complications that arise when one or both spouses are with each other 24/7? Trust me, this is a major adjustment for both partners. No matter how many books on relationship building you've checked out of the library, and how much you love your partner, being together all the time is tough without some planning.
Do you have something besides work that you love to do? If work is your vocation and avocation what will you do when you don't have that anymore? Do you have any interests, passions, or hobbies you'd love to explore? It is best to figure that out before you walk in the door of your house, retired, with no idea what to do next.
I've made the point many times that retirement is a huge adjustment for anyone. I don't care how well prepared you think you are, there are things you have not foreseen that will happen. Such uncertainty shouldn't freeze you in place. Life is all about change. There is no way to cover all your bases ahead of time.
So, what to do? Plan, plan, plan. Then plan some more. Consider everything you know and things you know you don't know. Then, when the time is right for you, just do it. You will learn to adjust. You will struggle, grow, panic, and thrive. That is life whether you are retired or not.
And, as I begin my 21st year, I can vouch for the satisfaction that comes from having your time and your life under your control.