It should come as no surprise that we spend a good deal of our time helping clients prepare for retirement. Many people think that’s all that we do (I can assure you that it’s not), but it is a significant reason for why our industry exists. We develop strong financial plans, and tailor portfolios to meet objectives. We analyze and plan for risk. We do all of these valuable things and more, but none of it works if you (the client) aren’t taking an active role in the process. When considering retirement, here are 5 things that you must do before you flip the switch.

First, and this is going to sound obvious, you must decide what you are going to do! Ask yourself these questions: What am I retiring from? What am I retiring to? Am I okay with part time work or less lucrative work if it means doing the things that are really important? If you are primarily focused on clocking out and being idle, I challenge you to recalibrate your thoughts on retirement (read this https://chiefendofmoney.com/rethinking-retirement/).

Secondly, you must get out of debt. Now! The most successful clients in retirement are the ones who aren’t servicing a bunch of debt payments. Car payments, boat payments, credit cards and other non-mortgage debt don’t get any easier on a fixed (or less flexible) income. If and when retirement throws you a curve ball, you need to be able to roll with the punches. Loads of debt simply makes you less flexible when life happens.

Third, you must adopt a budget. If you’ve never budgeted before, now is the time to start. Budgeting is a skill that needs to be honed in all walks of life, but especially in retirement. If you’ve never learned to budget, I recommend Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover”. This of course goes hand in hand with paying off debt. You’ll never regret learning how to budget.

The fourth thing that you must consider is how you will pay for one of your biggest expenses in retirement. Healthcare. The average 65-year-old couple retiring today can expect to pay $300,000 in healthcare related expenses during the course of retirement. Where’s that in your budget? Understanding Medicare is vitally important in the retirement process. If you are considering retiring early, you need to understand what your options are (see healthcare.gov).

Lastly, you must determine your final wishes. The last thing you want to do is leave these difficult decisions to grieving family members or worse to the courts. We suggest updating wills and powers of attorney anytime there is a major life event, and retirement is about as big of a life event as there is. If you are not sure where to start, here’s a quick primer: “Four Essential Estate Planning Documents You Should Consider Drafting” by Jennifer Luzzatto, Forbes.com.

Classic Mojito

Ingredients

  • 3 mint leaves
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 3/4 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • Club soda, to top
  • Garnish: mint sprig
  • Garnish: lime wheel

Steps

  1. Lightly muddle the mint with the simple syrup in a shaker.
  2. Add the rum, lime juice and ice, and give it a brief shake.
  3. Strain into a highball glass over fresh ice.
  4. Top with the club soda.
  5. Garnish with a mint sprig and lime wheel.