Updated February 25, 2021 (Originally January, 2019) — We’ve heard it said that new parents shouldn’t have their new babies released to them until they have passed a child rearing class. Something similar might be said for retirees – retirement is far too important a project to undertake without some preparation and planning. To that end we have created a multipart online training class on retirement preparation – and this is the first Module. As we imagine it, people can take the course years before they actually pull the retirement trigger. It can also be used as refresher training for those who are already enjoying their retirements.
At this point the course has 10 modules (see list at bottom), but we are not stopping there. Our members have suggested the themes for several of the modules (see Comments section below), and we will continue to add more in the years to come.
Modules. Here are some of the potential modules in the course (ones in Bold have been completed):
- Overview of retirement
- Social Security
- Where to retire
- Staying busy
- Financial – will I have enough to retire
- Relatives and friends
- Types of retirement communities
- Expatriate retirement
- Working in retirement
- Managing your money
- Medicare and healthcare
- Planning for the Longterm (age appropriate)
- Bucket Lists
- Avoiding scams and fraud
Module 1 – Retirement Overview
This first module in the series provides an overview of the major things you need to plan for in retirement. It covers the big topics you need to get educated on; in later modules we will get into more detail on specific topics. One of our favorite retirement mantras is that “retirement is a chance for a do-over on life”. In our opinion, retirement should not be looked at simply as a relief from working and a chance to put your feet up. Instead, if you plan and work at it, and are lucky too, you can make up for any disappointments you might have had up to this point in life.
Planning. The first thing to know about retirement – it is all about planning. That planning involves many aspects. Some years before you step out of the working world (and no one can predict when that might happen!), you need to be preparing for issues like: where will you retire, what will you do, how will you keep busy, what are your lifestyle priorities, and will you work part-time, start a business, or volunteer.
Financial. The financial leg of retirement is mightily important. Ideally that begins with your first real job, and involves a commitment to saving. It also means taking advantage of and maximizing any incentives your employer might offer to their retirement plans, such as a matching contribution. There is no substitute for the power of compounded interest on savings, as just a few years extra savings early on can make an enormous difference in your lifestyle later on. If you are like most people, you will need a lot of money to maintain the lifestyle you have in your working years.
When. The when of retirement is a key decision to plan for. Obviously, you want to be financially ready before you send in your notice to quit the workforce. But one problem that so many baby boomers have discovered is when it actually happens is not under your control, despite the most careful planning. Older workers tend to be expensive and sometimes lack the latest skills, so getting laid off in your 50s or 60s is a common hazard. Getting a new job that pays as well is usually almost an impossibility. So the point is this, make your preparations for R (Retirement) Day, but have a contingency in case it happens sooner.
Where to live. One of the great freedoms that comes with retirement is that you have the option to live anywhere you want. Your job is not holding you to a geographic location anymore. You can move to a warmer climate if you want, change to a location where you can enjoy a certain lifestyle or activities, get closer (or farther away) from family and friends, escape a high tax environment, or a state whose politics you don’t like – all kinds of possibilities are on the table. But, deciding where to live in retirement is not an easy decision. Our member surveys indicate this is one of the biggest concerns retired people have. Identifying your priorities, squaring your preferences with a spouse of family, finding out where those possibilities exist, and actually experiencing an area with boots on the ground takes time and effort.
Your health. Just about everyone assumes they are going to go through retirement as hale and hearty as they are in their 40s, 50s, or 60s. Sadly, not everyone will. A stroke, cancer, accident, etc., can wipe out a retirement plan quickly, and there is not much to be done about it. But there are a host of preventable medical problems that can also wreck your retirement. If you want to live a long life, free of physical ailments and preventable medical conditions, you need to get started now if you haven’t already. Stop smoking, moderate your drinking, get your weight on track, and get regular exercise several times a week. Visit your medical professional for regular checkups and tests. If you are prescribed medication, take it. Listen to your body. Take a look at people your age and older – how they move, walk, and sit. If they look and act old to you, consider a regular program of stretching, pilates, and yoga. These are great for keeping you limber and youthful.
Social Security and Medicare. These two government programs are key to a successful retirement. Read up on the various opinions on when is the best time for YOU to start taking Social Security retirement benefits. This is an important decision with long term ramifications for you and your spouse – do not make it without careful study. Medicare is somewhat more straightforward, but still has important decisions associated with it. You have to register for at least Medicare Part A (hospitalization) at age 65. But Part B vs. Medicare Advantage plans merit careful consideration and comparison. Likewise supplemental insurance is almost always a good idea, but you need to select a plan. Finally, Part D (prescription drug plans) is something you should have. Failure to take out a plan at age 65 will result in a lifetime penalty if you add it at a later time (unless you have drug coverage from another source), so don’t delay.
Healthcare. This is usually a big challenge for people who are retired and too young for Medicare. Assuming you no longer have health insurance from an employer or as a covered spouse, you have to get it somewhere. ObamaCare is a good resource, particularly if your income is under certain limits (there might be subsidies to make it more affordable). You have to be able to get coverage, no matter what previous conditions you might have. Go to healthcare.gov for more information on when and how you can sign up.
Staying busy. Finally, you need to have a plan for what you are going to do once you retire. That has to be a lot more than “clean out the garage”, “take some trips”, or “do some volunteering”. Retirement opens up a lot of time, including no commuting. Will you work part-time, start a business, or volunteer? It would be very helpful to have an idea of what types of activities you will do. Start with an inventory of what you like to do, what makes you happy, and what causes you care about. Leisure is important too. Can you do the things you really like to do in the community and region you will retire to? Do you want to take up new hobbies or activities, or pursue new ones? Ideally you have some experience with those activities before you retire, so you don’t wake up the day after retirement and wonder what you are going to do. You can just hang around the house, but we doubt you will be very happy for long.
In the coming months we will be providing Blog articles on each of the topics in our Retirement course. We hope you can use that information to do a better job of planning for your retirement, or if you are already retired, improve it. Please use the Comments section below to tell us what you think of this retirement course idea, suggest other topics we should cover, possible features or ways to improve it, along with your feedback about any of the points in this article.
Please take a moment and write down on a piece of paper the grade you think you have earned for your current retirement planning. An A might mean you have done everything you could to prepare and feel really good about that. An F is you have done nothing, and retirement is looming. Then write down a few areas that seem like they need the most work. Finally, discuss your grade with your partner. Better yet, see Module 4: A Retirement Preparation Quiz
For further reading:
- Module 1 -Introduction to Retirement Planning 101
- Module 2: How to Retire on a (Lot Less Than) $1 Million
- Module 3: What Type of Retirement Community Is Right for You
- Module 4: A Retirement Preparation Quiz
- Module 4, part 2: Quiz Answers Explained
- Module 5: Overcoming Loneliness in Retirement
- Module 6: How to Visit and Evaluate a 55+ or Active Adult Community
- Module 7: Pros and Cons of an Expatriate Retirement
- Module 8: What You Think You Might Know About Social Security Might Hurt You
- Module 9: Medicare 101
- Module 10: 12 Steps to Downsizing Success