When you’re just starting out in the work world, retirement seems like a pipe dream. But somehow it creeps up on us, and, whether we’re ready for it or not, it arrives.
Some people plan early, so transitioning into retirement is a relatively simple event. Others aren’t so lucky and have a rough time living on their retirement checks.
You don’t need to have an account full of CDs and pension plans in order to retire comfortably, though. Whether your working days are on the near horizon or still in the distant future, follow these seven steps for a happy and healthy retirement.
1. Plan Your Days
Knowing what you want to do when you retire gives you an idea of how far in advance you’ll need to plan. A caviar palate isn’t going to go far on a tuna fish budget, so this part is very important.
If your intent is to garden and golf every day, you can feel secure with an average retirement plan. But if you want to travel the world, you’ll need a lot more money in your savings account.
Those who want to spend their retirement days crossing off bucket-list items must plan early. The sooner you start saving and creating a financial portfolio, the better.
(Unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to have an economic windfall happen on your behalf.)
2. Analyze Your Budget
No matter how far you are from retirement, it’s crucial to take a serious look into your finances. It’s never too soon to start saving money or paying off bills!
Ask yourself these financial questions:
What are your monthly bills?
What is your budget likely to be when you retire?
Can you refinance anything at a lower interest rate to pay it off sooner?
Financial expert Dave Ramsey suggests using what he calls the “snowball method” to achieve financial health. With this system, you pay off your debts from the smallest to the biggest, until every debt is completely paid off.
His isn’t the only financial advice out there, though. Find a method that works for you, but be sure you pay off all but your core bills before you retire. This will help you live comfortably on a fixed income.
3. Take Care of Your Health
When most people think about preparing to retire, their minds focus on the financial aspect. But nutrition and exercise are the keys to a healthy retirement.
You can’t enjoy your golden years if you’re always sick, and the doctors’ visits and treatments can quickly deplete your savings.
While this isn’t always preventable, you can do your part to catch and eliminate problems early. Get annual checkups and follow your doctor’s orders.
It’s also essential to invest in a good insurance plan. There are many cheap or free options geared towards elders. Before you jump on one that sounds too good to be true, have a trusted expert explain the fine print to you.
It may be great until you get sick. “You get what you pay for” isn’t something you want to learn when your health is at stake.
4. Pick a Place to Live
When you were younger, you probably found yourself moving to places out of convenience. Maybe it was where your family and friends were, or maybe it was close to your job.
But as you approach retirement, you must ask yourself, “Where am I the happiest?”. If the place you’re currently living in is dissatisfying, it’s time to move somewhere else.
Retirement apartments aren’t what they used to be. Once a place where elders would go to be out of their family’s way, they’re now coveted suites with waiting lists.
Many of these places have a wide range of amenities not available in the typical house.
Once you’ve narrowed down the city you want to retire in, look for retirement communities there.
Consider the conveniences, amenities, and necessities in the places that made your list. Do they provide everything you need and want?
Of course, the other alternative is staying where you are. If you have everything you need and you’re happy there, why not?
But then there’s a big question to answer:
If you do stay, should you downsize to a smaller place near you?
Consider the pros and cons of all of these choices carefully. They could determine the rest of your life.
5. Set Goals
If your only goal is to pass the time, you’re going to get bored quickly. And boredom is the first step on a slippery slope to depression and chronic medical conditions.
Staying busy is important, but continue to set goals so you have something to get you out of bed in the morning.
These goals don’t have to be huge. Maybe you want to improve your golf game or join a club. Or perhaps you just want to read more.
Whatever your goal may be, always move that carrot forward so you’re continually looking ahead, even after you meet one goal.
6. Focus on Relationships
It’s easy to become isolated during retirement. Your schedule is different than that of your working friends and family, and without a set routine, you can start to feel lonely.
Do your best to keep your weeks full of family and friends. Volunteer to carpool your grandchildren or babysit. Invite friends over for potluck dinners and card games.
If you have a significant other, this could be the time to bond. Remember that they are in a transition period, too, so help each other make the most of retirement.
7. Be Smart About Finances
Unfortunately, there are many criminals out there who prey on retired people. While you want to be wary of those people, you also don’t want to be afraid.
The best way to keep predators from victimizing you is to get educated. Stay up on current events, especially in finances. The news is full of scam warnings to help you stay alert (just don’t let paranoia get the best of you).
Find an advisor you trust to walk you through investments. Get their advice before you make any major financial decisions. Ask them first if anything sounds fishy to you.
You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and planning for retirement should be a reward, not a punishment.
With these seven steps to help you prepare, you can enter the world of “All play, no work” without any problems!
Leon Grundstein has more than 28 years of experience in real estate development, with over two decades in the retirement industry. He founded Tacoma Point Ruston with a game-changing business model to promote a healthy and robust retirement lifestyle for older adults.