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Are You Ready to Retire? This Checklist May Provide Some Answers

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If you’re like most people over 50, you’ve probably been thinking about retirement for years. When will I retire? Will I be able to afford it? How will I know when the time is right? And what will “retirement” look like and feel like?

At AgingOptions, helping people answer questions like these – and, most of all, helping them see their dreams come true through careful planning – is the cornerstone of our professional work. In our offices, on the radio and in our seminars, one of the questions we get most often is, “How will I know when it’s the right time to retire?” Because we hear questions like that so frequently, we’re always interested in articles from retirement experts attempting to provide some answers. Here’s a good example which we discovered recently on the website Real Deal Retirement. Written by nationally known columnist Walter Updegrave, this one is called “The ‘Are You Ready to Retire’ Checklist.” While we seriously doubt whether any five-question “checklist” can really answer such a profound and important question, we share this article with you because it might help you explore your own situation a bit more fully. But as you’ll discover, we think Updegrave’s checklist, while helpful in some ways, is sadly incomplete.

“If you think you’ve got the means and the inclination to call it a career,” writes Updegrave, “I say go for it. My only caveat is that, before you do, make absolutely sure that you’re not only financially prepared to retire, but that you’re also ready to make the social transition from the work-a-day world to retirement.” It’s hard to argue with that – so let’s see what the Real Deal Retirement article offers on its retirement checklist.

The first question on the checklist is the most obvious: “Do you have the financial resources you’ll need to support you the rest of your life?”  Updegrave adds, “The question is straightforward, but coming up with an accurate answer can be more difficult than you think.” As a solution, the Real Deal Retirement article offers links to some helpful tools including BlackRock’s Retirement Expense Worksheet and the T. Rowe Price Retirement Income Calculator. These are useful if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind filling in numbers, but you can also contact us here at AgingOptions and allow us to refer you to a fee-based financial planner, someone who is not trying to sell you a financial product or insurance policy but who you hire for a fee to give you honest, objective advice. Believe us, if you choose the right planner, the expense will be well worth it.

The second question, closely related to the first, from the Real Deal Retirement article is “Have you considered how you’ll generate income for retirement?” This individualized income plan can include Social Security, part-time work, required minimum withdrawals (RMD) from non-Roth retirement plans, and possibly an annuity to generate steady income. Once again, putting together an income plan for your future is another area where we suggest the services of a qualified planner.

The third question is critical: “Do you have health insurance squared away?” The Bureau of Labor Statistics warns that health care costs will consume about 15 percent of the average retiree’s spending, so it’s imperative that you understand just what Medicare does and does not cover and how to fill in the gaps with Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement plans.  If you have questions about these vital programs, we invite you to call us at AgingOptions, or – better still – attend a free LifePlanning Seminar soon where many of your questions will be answered. We’ll tell you more about LifePlanning in just a moment.

Walter Updegrave returns to finances for his fourth question on the Pre-Retirement Checklist: “Is your retirement portfolio in shape?” Once again, this goes back to the issue of income in retirement. “There’s no single correct stocks-bonds mix that’s right for all retirees,” Updegrave writes. “The idea is that you want to invest enough of your savings in stocks to provide the returns you’ll need to maintain your purchasing power over the course of a long retirement, but also enough in bonds to provide some ballast during the market’s inevitable periodic setbacks.”  Again, this is another area where unbiased financial advice is in order.

Finally, Updegrave’s concludes with a question that we think is profound. “Do you have a plan for how you’ll actually spend your time after you retire?” he asks. Since retirement can easily last for three decades, a healthy dose of lifestyle planning is essential in order to “make this phase of your life satisfying and meaningful rather than a period of just marking time.”  The author lumps quite a few questions under the “lifestyle planning” category: for example, he asks, “Will you remain in your current home or downsize to something smaller? Stay in the same neighborhood or relocate to an area with lower living costs? Do you have a circle of friends and family that will keep you socially engaged? Have you lined up activities (part-time work, a workout regimen, a hobby or avocation, charitable work) that can help keep you physically fit and mentally alert?”

So what’s our view of this “Are You Ready to Retire” Checklist? We would give Mr. Updegrave a grade of “Incomplete.” He does a good job of covering finances, which most retirement planners do, and he touches (briefly) on Medicare. But what about long-term care? What about your legal protection? Do his housing questions adequately deal with the choices and limitations you’ll face in deciding where you’ll live as you age? And what about your family – will they be fully supportive of your plans? If not, your best-laid plans could fall apart in a battle between your heirs after you’ve gone. The Real Deal Retirement checklist is silent on these vital issues.

The better answer for retirement preparation is to attend a free AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar, where you’ll discover a truly comprehensive approach  to retirement planning – one in which finances, legal affairs, medical coverage, housing choices and family communication all work together in harmony. With your LifePlan in place, you’ll face retirement with a newfound sense of security and optimism for the future. Please accept our invitation to attend a free LifePlanning Seminar at a location near you. We offer a range of dates and times, so click here for details and online registration, or call us during the week so we can assist you. Bring your retirement questions and join us at an AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar.

(originally reported at

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