My husband and I have spent extra time talking about and thinking about our retirement lately. As we get closer to retirement age, we have spent a great deal of time getting prepared. If you are anything like us, you have a lot of unanswered questions so I wanted to take some time to review some of the big decisions that retirement will bring.
First, and probably most important will be making a retirement budget. Sit down and think about all of the expenses you will have. It is hard to successfully plan for retirement if you have no idea how much money you will need to live. It is important to be realistic about your expenses, and be sure to include extras for those items that are hard to plan for, like car and home repairs, gifts and special occasions, etc.
While making your budget, you will have to look closely at any of your retirement income and weigh that against your decision of when to apply for social security. Applying at 62 or 67 will have benefits and drawbacks. Waiting will increase the amount of your monthly check, but you might have less payout overall. Women usually earn less than men, so married women will need to look at whether they should apply for ½ of their husbands benefit amount or if the amount they will receive on their own is a larger amount.
Now is a good time to review all of your previous employment 401K and retirement accounts, and see which ones you can consolidate, which will make things easier to keep track of.
The next big decision is whether or not to downsize. We have given a great deal of thought to this topic. Right now we are in a big 2-story 4-bedroom house that is much bigger than we need. Downsizing not only has the benefit of less house to clean and pay for, but often can result in additional funds that can be put into retirement investment accounts. Additional benefits of downsizing include lower utility costs, reduced maintenance and upkeep, and for us the prospect of no stairs to deal with as our bones and joints continue to age. Of course this decision is anything but simple, downsizing also depends on the real estate market at the time and the sentimental value of staying in your current home, not to mention the effort and expense of moving and having to get rid of possessions that will no longer fit into your new smaller home. There may be some tax implications as well, so you should discuss this with financial professionals to be sure what the right decision is for you.
Whether you choose to downsize or not, now is the time to begin to declutter. It is important to let go of some of those possessions you no longer need, this will help you in moving into a new smaller place and your children have less to sort through after you are gone.
It is exciting to think about retirement, I am looking forward to enjoying time with my husband and hopefully all of our planning will pay off.