If you’re planning to retire within five years, there are some things you can do now to ensure that you’re confident, excited, and prepared when the time comes.
When you think of retirement as a journey, you’re getting ready to take, you can see why it’s best to plan ahead. Yes, you’ve likely been saving for your retirement for most of your working life, but now that it’s almost upon you, it’s time to think about the practicalities a bit.
For example, how do you plan to fill your time? Who will you go out to dinner with? Where will you travel? Taking the time to organize your thoughts a few years before retirement helps make the transition easier because it helps you figure out where you want to go so you can move into the next phase of your life with confidence.
Here are five things to think about before retirement.
1. What is your net worth?
You’ve spent your working life accumulating wealth, and you may have even kept a net worth statement to keep track of things. If you’re kept an eye on your investments, you’ve likely seen them rise and fall a bit, but hopefully, the overall trajectory has been increased assets and decreased debt.
Assessing your net worth before retirement is essential because it helps you figure out how you’re going to fill the gap in income once you stop working. Taking a good, hard look at things ahead of time gives you a chance to identify any problem areas and figure out if there’s anything you need to work on.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Which of your assets will you withdraw from first?
- Do you have any lingering debt to pay off?
- Should you focus on growing after-tax savings?
Update your net worth statement to assess your risks and identify any opportunities for improvement. For example, if you have a small amount of your mortgage left to pay, it might be beneficial to take any after-tax investments to pay off the balance. This not only frees up the money that went toward the mortgage payment every month, but it also reduces the amount of money you need to withdraw from your savings as you can use the money you used to spend on your mortgage for living expenses.
2. What are your expenses?
Hopefully, by the time you reach retirement age, you’re at the top of your career and earning a salary reflective of that. Your kids have likely grown up and moved out, starting their own careers. So, there’s probably a good chance that you have a good amount of disposable income and have gotten used to a certain quality of life.
Now is the time to take a good look at your expenses. How much do you need to spend to have the life you’re accustomed to? Are there any expenses that will go away once you stop working? Will you have any new spending?
Most people don’t have a formal budget. If you don’t, it’s time to start one. A budget is the only way to know what you spend from month to month and the best way to start planning your life after retirement.
You also have to be prepared to change the way you think about your money. For decades, you’ve been thinking about accumulating wealth. Now that it’s time to start drawing from those accounts instead of adding to them, things can get a little tricky. Being prepared helps you avoid any unnecessary anxiety, helping you to think clearly and make good decisions.
3. Are you still career-focused?
If you’re career-minded, you’ve probably focused on work-related things for most of your life. What do you need to do to get a promotion? How can you get ahead on the next big project? You’ve probably pulled late nights and gone into the office early to make sure you were always seen as a go-getter or a hard worker.
But now is the time to shift your focus a bit. Set up boundaries between work and your personal life, keeping in mind that your career is ending soon. You don’t need to chase another promotion. Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t do your job as well as you can. Just keep in mind that things are changing, and you should start to change how you approach your work.
Allow yourself some free time to think about what’s next. You’re not really on the career track anymore, so it’s okay to start acting like it. If all of your waking hours are filled with meetings, emails, and conference calls, you won’t have any time to plan the next phase of your life.
Learn to say no. Stop responding to work emails after 6 pm, and don’t check your messages until you’re back in the office the next morning. Start compartmentalizing work as work and open up blocks of time for enjoying the rest of your lids and thinking about the next phase.
4. Who will you spend your time with?
Think about your downtime. Who do you want to be with? Do you have someone you love to meet for coffee or brunch? Friends who share the same hobbies? Someone you can talk to about anything?
The years leading up to retirement are a great time to branch out, meet new people, or strengthen the friendships you already have. Are there any activities you like or groups you can join? When you no longer have coworkers, who will you pass the time with?
5. What is your purpose?
This question is a little different than how you’ll spend your time. Most people have a list of things they want to do in retirement but think deeper than that. What is your passion? What are your interests? What motivates you? Figuring this out will help ensure your retirement is as fulfilling as it is relaxing. It doesn’t have to be life-changing. Some people are driven by being a good grandparent. Maybe you’re passionate about watercolor painting or reading novels or gardening or baking pies. Whatever it is, finding your thing in the years leading up to retirement makes the downtime much more exciting.
Thinking about retirement is a little overwhelming, but starting to plan things out in the years leading up to retirement makes things a little more manageable. Make time to think and take it one step at a time. Before you know it, you’ll have a plan in place for an exciting, fulfilling retirement.
Any opinions are those of Thomas Fleishel and not necessarily those of Raymond James.
Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation.
Every investor’s situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.