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Preparing for retirement
5+ years away from retirement
Things to consider:
When do you want to retire? What will your retirement look like? Will you continue to work?
Cultivate healthy habits now
- Review your investments.
- Pay off personal debt.
- Consider the availability of Medicare for you and your spouse, based on your retirement date.
- Purchase an individual health insurance policy.
Saving and distribution strategies
- Identify a strategy that addresses how to invest through your retirement, and start thinking about income.
- Consider how long you will live, factoring in that many people outlive their life expectancy.
- Find a balance of investment risk that is likely to keep pace with inflation without exposing you to too much downside.
Social Security benefits
If you'll receive Social Security benefits, determine:
- How much you are projected to receive at different ages. Visit ssa.gov/mystatement and ssa.gov/retire/estimator.html for details.
- When to begin receiving benefits.
- How to maximize potential benefits over your and your spouse's lifetimes.
You’ll have reduced benefits if you worked in the public sector and didn't pay into Social Security during certain years. Learn more at ssa.gov/gpo-wep.
3-5 years away from retirement
Things to consider:
Retirement income needs:
- Prepare a budget that includes ongoing retirement expenses, as well as one-time, lump-sum purchases.
- Distinguish essential needs from optional wants.
- Use budgeting software, online tools or a simple spreadsheet.
Log in to your account and use the Retirement Income Calculator! You'll find out if you're on your way to having the income you'll need in retirement.
Do you or your spouse have a pension? Find out:
- How much you're projected to receive based on different retirement dates.
- What survivor benefit options are available for your spouse or other beneficiaries.
- Your payment options.
Estate planning and recordkeeping
Consider whether you wish to leave an inheritance for any family members or charities. If so, estate planning becomes especially important. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you:
- Name beneficiaries on your retirement accounts, annuity contracts and life insurance policies.
- Create a will to direct the distribution of other assets and determine who will care for your minor children or other dependents.
- Establish a living will and a medical power of attorney.
- Establish a financial/durable power of attorney to direct financial decisions if you become incapacitated.
- Decide if you'd benefit from a trust.
12-18 months away from retirement
Things to consider:
Understand the options that may be available to you both before and after you become eligible for Medicare. Consider:
- Costs, including premiums, deductibles and coinsurance
- Supplemental coverage
The Health Care Savings Calculator at aarp.org can give you insight into potential medical costs in retirement.
Long-term care insurance
Begin thinking about how you'll cover the potential cost of long-term care—including help with daily life activities—which is generally not covered by Medicare.
Visit longtermcare.gov for more information.
Know how your investments are taxed. Work with a qualified financial or tax professional to determine how to manage those taxes, along with state income tax, property tax and sales tax. Don't forget to consider taxes you'll pay on income, like pension and Social Security benefits.
To learn more about federal taxes, visit irs.gov. For state taxes, visit retirementliving.com/taxes-by-state.
60-90 days away from retirement
Things to do:
- Choose your retirement date and complete necessary paperwork.
- Apply for your defined benefit pension from a former employer, if applicable.
- Apply for Social Security and Medicare.
Keep in mind that trips or calls to the Social Security and Medicare agencies may take some time, and processing times may also involve long periods.