November 18, 2017 — Anybody who has spent any time preparing for their retirement quickly realizes that it isn’t that easy. Sure, you can retire one day and just float along, but it probably won’t work out too well. For one thing, you might not realize until too late that you can’t afford to retire. Or you retire somewhere, not knowing that there is actually a much better place for you to retire. And even if you are wealthy, you might retire unhappily, woefully unprepared for how to stay busy and fulfilled.
In this article we have assembled our top 10 retirement tools for your consideration. They are tools we have used and know to be helpful. We have grouped them into categories for your convenience. As always, please share your thoughts as well as the ones you find useful in the Comments section at the end!
1. SocialSecurity.gov. There is so much good and useful information at the Social Security site. You can find out all about what your benefits will be, when you can sign up, what your options are, etc. Of course you can always visit a Social Security office or call them, but start at the website and you will be amazed with what you can find out
2. Medicare.gov. The types of comments we made about Social Security also apply here. Find out the facts about Part A, B, C, and D – and sign up for the option that fits you. Learn your options about Medigap (supplemental) insurance and get started on that too.
There are multiple calculators (almost all free) that will help you predict if your retirement plans are going to pan out. For example, will your asset match up with your spending plans, or will you run out of money before you die – definitely not a good situation! With these calculators you plug in your age, retirement assets, and spending plans – then you get a prediction. One website we’ve seen, Caniretireyet.com, provides a short list and descriptions of their favorite calculators; it includes links to a good one from Fidelity as well as the Vanguard Nest Egg calculator discussed below. You might want to check it out. But here are our two favorite calculators:
3. SocialSecurity’s Retirement Estimator The Retirement Estimator gives estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record. This is the place to start, as it will tell you with considerable certainty how much your monthly Social Security payment will be. Knowing that, you can go through the rest of the equation, adding in pensions and income from your retirement savings and possible employment, how long you want the money to last, and then deducting what you think your expenses will be.
4. We like the Vanguard Nest Egg Calculator , which automatically does all of the calculations we just mentioned above. We used it with a couple of hypothetical assumptions to see what it said. The typical baby boomer couple has saved $135,000 for retirement, a nest egg that would provide $400/month ($4800/year) forever assuming a constant 3% return. But if our example couple needed to take out $10,000/year to maintain their lifestyle and bolster their Social Security income, the Monte Carlo simulations predict what would happen. In this case our hypothetical couple would have a 1% chance of having their money last 30 years. More likely, they would be living on Social Security alone in after 15 or so years.
Where to Live
Here at Topretirements we have two tools to help you figure out where to live, in addition to our main website and our free weekly newsletter.
5. The RetirementRanger is the first. This online tool asks you 10 simple questions about where you want to retire, then instantly emails you a list of the towns and communities that fit your profile.
6. Best Cities for Successful Aging from the Milken Institute. As opposed to most “Best of…” lists, this one is based on lots of data and covers multiple categories. There is some great information here – the lists show the 381 best cities for successful aging for both large metros and smaller metros.
7. Kiplingers State by State Guide to Taxes for Retirees. There are a variety of places you can learn about taxes affecting retirees by state (including the State Guides at Topretirements.com). But the Kiplinger tool is unusually good. For example you can click on a state in its map and get a detailed summary of taxes on retirement income, property and purchases, as well as special tax breaks for seniors.
Helpful information about retirement
Next Avenue is part of the PBS system, and it “invites readers to consider what is next, what lies just ahead and what will be revealed in their lives by exploring questions big and small”. Their articles, like “5 Social Security Gotchas” are short but practical. Their articles spark a lot of ideas which you later read about at Topretirements. We recommend NextAvenue and offer refer to them, even though they had steadfastedly refuse (so far!) to share any Topretirements features with their audience.
9. AARP.com. A lot of people have a bad feeling about the AARP because of all the products like insurance they try to sell. But in our opinion the AARP does an excellent job of advocating for people of retirement age on issues like taxes, Social Security, and Healthcare. For example on the current tax reform bill in the Senate and House, they one of the few sources that offers factual information on how these bills will affect seniors (not well, is the answer!). See “House Bill Would Increase Taxes for Some Seniors” as an example
Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have “Retirement” sections that have thought-provoking and interesting articles – often about unusual lifestyles in retirement. You can subscribe to them online are on paper, or you can read them at the library. SquaredAwayBlog is another interesting resource.
One other tool from Topretirements is our “Baby Boomers Guide” a short eBook with checklists and quizzes that start your thinking process on all the aspects of retirement you need to consider.
What to Do in Retirement
10. RetiredBrains.com is a great resource for finding volunteer gigs. But don’t forget all the self-inventory tools that can help you find out what kinds of things you actually want to do in retirement. Our Blog section on “Work and Volunteering” can give you some great ideas you might not have thought of.
Comments? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below. What tools have you used that you recommend we add to this list.