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- Be realistic about how you’ll spend your time. Vague thoughts about finally having time to relax won’t be much of a comfort after several months away from your trusty old job. “What is it that you want to do as a retired person that you can’t do now?” asks Marie Phillips, a retiree I spoke with who pulled up stakes at 61, five years after her husband. “Really think about those activities. Picture yourself doing them day in and day out. If you aren’t comfortable with that picture, maybe you aren’t ready to retire – maybe a leave of absence would make more sense.”
- Get a network in place. Right now while you’re in regular contact with people at work this may feel unnecessary, but it will never be easier. Set up a Linkedin account and invite your favorite co-workers to join your network. As Sara Sutton Fell of flexjobs.com, points out, many retirees “have the urge to re-enter the workforce on a part-time or consulting basis, either to bring in extra income or to remain active and stay connected to their communities and professions. The transition back to a part-time role is much easier when your professional contacts are already organized and ready for you to use.”
- Talk to a financial planner. If you’re a very organized individual, by this time you may have made most of the important decisions about what you’ll have to live on after retirement and where your assets will be placed. But whether you have or not, this is a good time to have an impartial eye evaluate your decisions – and perhaps suggest a few more that would be good to get out of the way. One way to search for professional, impartial advice is to use the website of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards to find a Certified Financial Planner in your area.
- Take a look at your house. One of your largest expenses is your house itself. Now that the kids are gone, could you live with a smaller place – and a reduced set of expenses? Are you going to be comfortable in ten or fifteen years with a big yard to take care of and two sets of stairs to climb? If you’re set to stay, making some green home upgrades could be a good idea. By the time you retire, they’ll have paid themselves off and you’ll appreciate the savings on your energy bills.
- Study your Medicare options. You may want to continue your company’s medical benefits through COBRA as long as you can, but when it’s time to take advantage of Medicare don’t forget about the online Medicare Plan Finder. It’s a free, fast, unbiased way to compare all of your Medicare options, depending upon (among other things) where you live and what medications you typically need.
- Lock in those professional certifications. Before Ms. Phillips retired, she figured out what she had to do to maintain her certification as a project-management professional. “My task was to build enough points to be eligible to extend the certification,” she explains. “This was easier to do while I was still working.”
- Study up on Social Security. It’s tempting to think about that monthly check just waiting to fatten up your bank account, but waiting a bit longer before you accept it makes sense for a lot of people. “The most common mistake individuals close to retirement make is about when they choose to claim their Social Security benefits,” notes Steve Gaito, a Certified Financial Planner in Raleigh, North Carolina. “In most cases, it’s beneficial for the individual to claim Social Security at a later age rather than the average individual who claims their benefits at age 62.”