As we move through time, we seldom think about what life will be like when we retire. You work for 25- 35 years and get paid regularly for your efforts. Then one day you stop working and the paychecks stop too. You have to rely on your savings and any other guaranteed sources of income you may have to pay all of your bills. Suddenly checks showing up in the mailbox become a little more important. This is what I call mailbox money; things like Social Security benefits, employer sponsored retirement accounts, annuity payments, etc.
You should know what it costs you to live. Do some budget analysis to get a handle on what your costs are versus the probability your pile of money will be around as long as you are. Knowing what it costs to live and what it costs to have those “extras” can be a really-really good thing to know; especially before you retire.
There are two categories you need to deal with. The first is your “must haves.” These are items which are absolutely essential for you to maintain your core standard of living. This includes eating, sleeping indoors, health insurance, transportation costs, etc.
The second category is the fun stuff in your life; the reason you worked and saved all those years. Things like travel, recreation, and any other non-essential living expenses. Knowing what these things cost will be a worthwhile effort.
Once you have an understanding of how much money you may need to live, it’s time to take a honest look at what your future may hold.
Are you currently receiving social security? If not, do you know when to take it? Have you done some comparative analysis to see if you are short changing yourself, or are you maximizing this benefit for which you paid during your working career? These are fairly important questions to think about ahead of time.
Do you have a pension? Does that pension cover both your life and the life of your spouse? How much does it cost you for the spousal pension benefit? If your spouse passes away before you, do you still have to pay for that spousal pension benefit?
Should you predecease your spouse, at least one of the social security checks goes away. Also, depending on your initial decisions, the pension will either go away, stay the same, or reduce its benefit amount. So, how much will it cost your spouse if you predecease them?
What about health care costs? How will your insurance benefits pay if you were to get sick or injured while traveling out of your network? What about overseas travel and healthcare?
Retirement is a pretty big deal and should be taken seriously. Work with a trained professional who is versed in retirement planning rather than someone who only manages investments. It truly is a different skill set with a totally unique focus.
Your retirement is a reward for all those years of hard work. By getting the pieces lined up and coordinated prior to taking that big leap, you will have one less thing to worry about. Be as well prepared as possible to ensure you have enough mailbox money to live the retirement lifestyle you envision.