Of all the “happy” life transitions that I have seen people make over my 35+ years of being a CFP® professional, transitioning to retirement seems to be the most intimidating. You would think the idea of having virtually unlimited freedom to pursue all the things you never had time to do while you were working should be exciting, stimulating, and something to look forward to.
But, it’s daunting for most people to think of giving up a paycheck from employment and moving to an investment paycheck (interest & dividends) and a paycheck from the government (Social Security).
This is why it is essential to have a plan in place as you approach retirement before making the transition. By meeting specific financial goals before the big retirement party, a new retiree can sleep well knowing that they are on the right track towards a comfortable, secure, and healthy retirement.
Let’s explore seven financial goals that retirees should aim for before their big day.
- Adjust your investment portfolio. For young investors, it’s vital to embrace enough risk that their assets can compound over the long run, building wealth along the way. In contrast, it’s significantly more important for mature investors to downshift their risk, as they will be drawing from the accounts year after year to create their retirement paycheck. Additionally, a significant downturn in the stock market just before retirement can significantly impact their financial future.
For many, this can mean moving to a 50/50 or 60/40 stocks to bonds split, lowering the swings or downside risk of their portfolio. That said, every situation is unique, and some investors may choose to embrace more or less risk, depending on the number of assets and other income streams they have available. Therefore, it is often best to consult with a fiduciary financial advisor when determining the correct asset allocation for your portfolio. You can rest assured knowing that the advice they give is in your best interest at all times.
- Debt-free, or close to it. Sliding into retirement with zero debt is entering your golden years from a position of strength. While this may be a stretch goal for some, it can be vital to do everything you can to lower your total debt load before retirement.
At best, this means retirees have a paid-off home or the extra assets to pay it off if they want to. At the very least, retirees should aim to eliminate all consumer loans and pay all credit card debt in full each month.
By eliminating and managing their debt, retirees can maintain a lifestyle of freedom and flexibility during their retirement, rather than having to go back to work or drawdown faster on their accounts to sustain their debt payments.
- The estate plan is written, and related parties are in the know. This is likely the most crucial goal on this list, as passing away without an estate plan can be a very costly and time-consuming experience for your grieving loved ones.
Having an estate plan in place allows retirees the peace of mind knowing that when they pass away, everything will end up exactly where they want it to, rather than leaving the decisions up to the court system.
In addition, it is a significant way for retirees to reduce the impact that a loss would have on their loved ones, allowing them the time to grieve rather than untangle an estate during the grieving process.
Last but not least, it can be critical to notify the key related parties in your estate plan and give them a general understanding of what you expect them to do once you pass away. This would include trustees, powers of attorney, and guardians, if applicable.
- You have adequate insurance in place. The transition into retirement is an excellent opportunity to review your insurance and make any necessary adjustments.
Often, this is a time where you can forego the short and long-term disability coverage and opt for increased home, auto, and maybe even an umbrella policy. Many retirees have built up a significant nest egg by retirement and need to do everything they can to protect it from unexpected loss or liability.
- You’re no longer providing for your adult children. Funding a decades-long retirement is difficult, there is no way around it. However, it can become downright impossible for retirees that are still financially supporting their adult children.
It’s important to note that every situation is different, and for retirees with disabled adult children, you are in a much different scenario. But, for the average retiree, it can be beneficial to have their adult children fully financially independent by the time they retire. Otherwise, retirees may find themselves draining their nest egg too quickly and being forced to either return to employment or turn back to their adult children for help in the future.
- You have a written budget. Having a written budget or spending plan is beneficial at any stage of life, but it is crucial for retirees as they often live on a fixed income. By identifying how much they plan to spend each month and year, retirees can create a solid game plan for how they will fund that spending and which accounts they will draw from to do it.
A written spending plan is critical to the long-term planning needed to live well in retirement and avoid running out of money.
- One year’s worth of expenses and an emergency fund. For retirees still adjusting to their new situation, cash can be as essential as oxygen. By having ample cash that is easily accessible, retirees can create a financial buffer in their life to help guard against the possibility of their portfolio being significantly down in the first couple of years of their retirement.
In addition, by having adequate cash available, retirees can create much more flexibility in their retirement paycheck; if the market is down, they can simply use cash to cover their expenses and wait for it to recover before topping their cash account back up.
The exact amount of cash to have on hand will differ for each unique scenario, but a great starting point is one year’s worth of expenses and an emergency fund in place.
In the end, the transition from working to retirement is a pivotal moment for you and your family. It is a time that can be scary for some, but with the right plan in place, retirees can manage their fears and simply enjoy their golden years.
I am here to help.
Many of the financial goals listed above are dynamic—they will change based on your unique situation. So, it can be critical to work with a fiduciary financial advisor to identify the right goals for you.
As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, I have helped my clients navigate the transition to retirement for decades, and I plan to continue for many decades to come. As a fiduciary, I am legally, morally, and ethically obligated to put my client’s interest above all else, so they can rest assured knowing they are getting the best advice for their unique situation.
If you’re interested in a complimentary call to discuss your unique retirement goals, then reach out and schedule today!