Before you retire, get on the same page with the important people in your life about what this important life change means to you. It will make for an easier transition and help you avoid financial missteps.
With your spouse or life partner:
1. Are we on the same page about the lifestyle we expect to have in retirement?
Before you retire, you and your partner need to get on the same page about what this means in day-to-day terms. For example, did you know that your living expenses in retirement will likely be about 80% of your pre-retirement living expenses? This means that your monthly budget will change – it’s important to make the changes thoughtfully. Examine your priorities and assumptions together to avoid misunderstandings that lead to financial missteps.
Do yourselves a favor and take a gradual approach to downsizing your spending well before retirement. This will let you significantly cut your monthly expenses without feeling the shock of adjustment. Take a close look at your monthly expenses together and identify items you can do without. Then, start eliminating a few at a time.
2. Are there parts of our life we should “downsize” before we retire?
Downsizing your home can be a real savings opportunity in retirement. Relocating to a city with a lower cost of living can also cut your monthly expenses considerably. You can even downsize your car, or go car-free altogether. These are big changes, however, that you and your partner need to consider very carefully together. You’ll want to weigh the possible savings against other important but not necessarily financial factors, such as proximity to friends and family and access to good recreational and medical facilities. Take your time weighing the pros and cons. If you can agree on which tradeoffs you are both willing to make, the impact on your security and comfort in retirement can be huge.
3. Are we really ready to retire? If not, what do we need to do to get there?
Compare your “retirement number” to your anticipated monthly expenses. Identify discrepancies so you can make adjustments and plans as needed.
- Do we need to delay retirement by a few years? Even one or two extra years of work, during your peak earning years, may have a significant effect on your quality of life in retirement. Consider this question carefully as you plan when to retire.
- What other sources of income will be available to us in retirement? There are many paths to a comfortable retirement; many different ways to patch together the right assets and investments to provide for your retirement. Even if your investment portfolio is not large enough to support your retirement needs, for example, you may find that you have other assets (a business, or real estate) that can contribute. Or one or both of you may choose to work part time – the “sharing economy” is a good place to start. Or, you may decide to sell off assets you no longer need.
With your boss:
4. Should you transition to a freelance/consulting relationship?
Even if you are looking forward to stepping away from your professional career, the smart move may be to maintain a freelance or consulting relationship with your current employer, if possible. Chances are, you have experience and skills that will continue to be valuable to your employer, even when you are no longer on staff full-time. A dependable source of extra income will help you cover unexpected expenses in retirement. Or, you can use the extra income to pay for more of the things you always dreamed of doing in retirement, like hobbies and travel.
Before you have the conversation with your boss, research what a fair fee rate is for someone at your experience level, in your industry. This will allow you to negotiate your future contract from a position of strength. Your track record as a reliable employee and the cost savings to your employer of no longer having you as full time staff should also boost the argument in your favor.
With your adult children:
5. How will your retirement affect the rest of the family?
Changes to your lifestyle in retirement may affect your extended family in various ways. Setting realistic expectations up front may help ease any necessary adjustments.
- For example, are your adult children accustomed to receiving financial assistance from you? Let them know that this may no longer be possible after you retire and have less disposable income.
- Downsizing your house? If you have been the default host for family celebrations, downsizing to a smaller home may require the family to rethink future holiday arrangements. Don’t wait until the holidays are upon you to spring the change on them: discussing it ahead of time will ensure that everyone’s best ideas are considered and good alternate plans made.
- Planning to relocate, or travel frequently after you retire? You will likely no longer be available for babysitting or many other family activities. Giving your kids and grandkids plenty of notice will help them plan ahead.