Note: This is the third in our series of vital things you need to do once you retire. The first 2 installments include different things to think about, and also have some great Comments from our Members.
February 8, 2016 — Well done, your long-awaited reward for years of hard work, struggle, and sacrifice is here. Now that you’ve actually retired, we have just a few more tasks to complete the process. Once you tick these off you can truly enjoy your retirement, knowing that you done most if not all of the important things you need to do to protect your family and heirs, not to mention make the most of this experience.
1. Develop a budget so you know where you stand. The Center for Retirement Research estimate that over half of retirees are at risk for a reduced standard of living in retirement. To protect your retirement, you need to know the state of your finances. Your budget needs to detail what your income will be from Social Security, pension, savings, part-time work, etc. The expense site of the equation includes what you will spend for residence, food, transportation, taxes, etc. Once you understand your financial picture you either have to live with it, add income, or reduce expenses.
One expense that most retirees overlook or under-estimate is health care, which usually get higher as you age. Obviously, those include your premiums for Medicare and Medigap insurance. But there are other health related expenses you need to plan for as you age. A recent study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that couples over 65 average about $2500 over a 2 year period in recurring out of pocket health care expenses (doctor/dentist visits, prescription drugs, etc.), and those over 85 years old spent $8530 over 2 years in non-recurring health related expenses (which includes hospital stays and nursing home care, etc.).
2. Finish your bucket list. Heh, you’re retired now, so make the most of it. Your bucket list doesn’t have to be fancy and it doesn’t have to be too detailed. But think of some things you really want to do (e.g.; visit the Grand Canyon, take your grandson to a Major League game, learn how to speak Spanish, etc.). Goals are great, and when you achieve them you will experience so much satisfaction. See our Bucket List articles for more ideas.
3. Write a letter to your spouse and children. This is your chance to tell them what you always wanted to say (e.g.; you are proud of them and loved them) or give them some parting advice. You might use it to specify who you want to get some of your personal effects, and why. If you use the letter to include burial or funeral instructions, make sure the letter is readily accessible. If your heirs don’t find it before the service, it won’t do much good! Several people suggested in the earlier installments of this article that you write your own obituary – or at least the key facts. Your family probably remembers where you went to high school and college, but not your Army unit, what your last job title was, or the full names of your parents and siblings.
4. Create a professionally developed last will and testament. It is amazing how many people don’t have a will, or one that is current. For people with significant assets, a trust can help keep your estate out of probate and minimize taxes. If you love your heirs you won’t want to subject them to a messy and expensive probate experience, or create conflict among them because you were unclear about how you wanted to distribute your assets.
5. Write your living will, and discuss it with your family. Do you want your family to avoid heroic efforts to keep you alive, or do you want modern medicine to do everything in its power to keep you alive, no matter what your condition. This can seem like a simple matter – as in Do Not Resuscitate order, or barring artificial feeding or breathing if you are in coma. But seeing you deathly ill produces stress on family members, and that can put the clarity of your documents to the test. A doctor’s job is to heal the patient, but there is a point when sometimes those measures become cruel, unusual, and very expensive punishment. Only you can control the situation, but you have to do it in advance by having a clear directive.
6. Develop a list of your most important logins and passwords. Your surviving spouse and/or executor is going to have a nightmare with your finances if you don’t leave a clear trail. Whereas survivors used to be able to search through your papers to find your assets, etc., more of more of your life is now online – and hard to discover. Keep this list (and keep it updated) with your other key documents or with your lawyer, either on paper or on a memory stick, so it can easily be found. Your email passwords are probably the most important digital asset you have. That is because they can be the key to retrieving statements, passwords, and other key information about your assets. See Plan Your Digital Legacy and Update it Often.
7. Put a smile on your face. Have you ever noticed that the people you like to be around are the ones who smile a lot? They seem younger and more fun than the ones who complain. Now that you’ve done the hard part – raised a family, finished your career – it’s time to be happy. One technique that we sometimes use is to do an occasional inventory of our days from time to time – did we say hello to that stranger on the street, did we engage the person at the counter with a smile? We’ll never be perfect and it is hard to change old habits, but we can get better! And if we practice, we’re bound to be happier and enjoy this fabulous experience called retirement.
Our suggestion is to put a time line on accomplishing these tasks. They can’t all be done overnight, but if you set goals it won’t take long to have the satisfaction of accomplishing them.
For further reading
For a different take on this subject see NextAvenue’s piece.
Now that You Are 65 – 10 Things You Need to Know (Part 1 of a 3 part series)
10 More Checklist Items for the Retiring Baby Boomer (Part 2)
Now That You Are Retired – Don’t Blow It!
Comments? How do you feel about these tasks? Are some more important than others? How is your progress coming? And, do you have ideas for other retirement tasks? Please let us know in the Comments section below.