The Summit & Beyond: Continuing to Plan in Retirement
Congratulations—you made it to retirement! Now it’s time to kick back and put that retirement plan on auto-pilot, right? Uh, no.
When we focus on a goal like retirement for a long time—most of our working lives, really—it can start to seem like an end point unto itself. But once we cross over the threshold, we realize that we’re really just starting the first day of the rest of our lives. And the journey continues …
Yes, we start now to implement the plans that we’ve made for retirement. And certainly we’re going to pursue the interests, travels and hobbies—health and money allowing—that may have been out of reach during our working years.
But we also may find that the road map we used for our pre-retirement planning needs some updates.
Perhaps our goals have shifted, or some key aspect of our life circumstances has changed. We might find the income we expected to have in retirement is not lining up with our expenses, either in the positive or negative. Maybe we miss work more than we expected to—and we discover a desire to return to some form of employment.
We call this the normalization stage, because these initial post-retirement years are all about reconciling the plan with the reality. There’s also the future to plan for—specifically, how we will deal with the inevitable process of aging and what kind of legacy we want to leave for others after we’re gone.
So, as you settle in to your retirement lifestyle, be sure to give some time and attention to these important matters:
- Refine Your Retirement Plan. Many retirees discover in the first five years that their retirement plans need fine-tuning. Carefully track your cash inflows and outflows—and if they’re way off what you expected them to be, make adjustments now. If everything appears to be on track, fantastic! But this is also the point where you’ll need a clear income strategy that answers the question: “how much can I withdraw, when, and from what source?”
- Communicate Your Plans and Preferences. Eventually as we age we’ll need to rely on others to help us. Now is the time to start making contingency plans for that day—and opening a clear communication channel with loved ones about your finances, plans, and personal wishes. If physical or mental health issues arise, what are your care preferences and how will they be paid for? Is there someone you trust to help manage your finances when you cannot? Addressing these questions sooner than later can help during more difficult days ahead.
- Define Your Legacy. You have the opportunity now to think about the legacy you’ll leave to others—and to clearly define your wishes in your will. An estate attorney can help you design a strategy that will minimize taxes and make the wealth transfer process as simple as possible for your heirs and beneficiaries.
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