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Planning Ahead for Retirement? These Four Steps will Help Chart Your Course.

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When we summarize articles about retirement for our AgingOptions blog readers, we don’t typically begin at the end. But as we scanned this extremely helpful article that was just published by Forbes, we not only liked the thinking behind the article but we liked how the author, retirement author and professor Jamie Hopkins, summarized his points. It definitely reflects our thinking.

“A financially secure retirement starts with planning,” Hopkins writes. “Research shows that those who have retirement plans in place have a happier, less stressful, and more financially secure retirement. While earning more money and saving regularly are important factors, you can improve your situation by cutting expenses, prioritizing expenses, and sticking to a good plan. You don’t have to buy into all the doom-and-gloom retirement predictions. Decide to be more proactive, take the first few planning steps, and begin to take charge of your financial future.”

Four Steps Toward a Better Plan

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. In the article, Hopkins lays out what he calls “four retirement planning steps everyone should take,” and it’s hard to argue with the points he makes, which we’ll review in a moment. First, though, we should point out that Hopkins’ four steps are pretty much entirely financial, and while we agree that having a solid financial plan in retirement is essential, we’re quick to add that it’s not enough. Comprehensive retirement planning deals with much more than money. Read on and you’ll see what we mean.

In the Forbes article, Jamie Hopkins begins by stating a problem we’re all familiar with, one we might call “retirement planning denial. “Many people are not even taking baby steps to pave the way for a financially secure retirement,” Hopkins writes. “For some, retirement planning seems too difficult; for others it seems like retirement won’t ever apply to them. The facts are that most workers will retire someday and, by taking a few basic steps now, they can vastly improve the outlook for their future retirement security.” He argues that it’s not enough to have a good savings plan in place as you prepare to retire – you also need a plan that will distribute those assets in such a way that they last you for the rest of your life.

The Four Steps Summarized

Let’s look at Hopkins’ four retirement planning steps.

Envision Your Retirement: “To get anywhere in life and achieve success, you need a vision of success,” says Hopkins. “Start by envisioning what you see as a successful and financially secure future in retirement.” While we’re a bit skeptical of the so-called “power of positive thinking” implied here, his point is valid. The more you can imagine your future, the more you can develop a game plan that will get you there.

Review Your Current Situation: “After you envision where you want to go, you then need to take a look at where you are today. We can’t get anywhere without first acknowledging and knowing where the starting line is.” That sensible advice from Hopkins is pretty basic, but too often overlooked, because you’ll never reach your destination unless you know your starting point. As you assess your status quo, ask yourself, are you managing your debt? Are you managing your expenses? Finally, are you saving and investing appropriately? These are a good place to begin.

Calculate Your Retirement Needs: “This is crucial,” says Hopkins, “if you want to know if you are on track for retirement or if you need to make some additional moves and changes to improve your situation.” Once you’re on the verge of retiring, it’s vital that you track what you are currently spending and make required adjustments and even lifestyle changes. Many retirees find they can live well and enjoy life on a relatively modest income so long as they are realistic about their lifestyle and their cash flow.

 Review Your Income Sources: “Now that you have examined your income needs in retirement, you can figure out if you will have an adequate retirement income stream,” says Hopkins. “Make sure you consider all your income sources including Social Security, investment portfolios, home equity, and possibly remaining longer in the workforce at some level.” This step will require that you have a well-thought-out plan in place to turn your savings into income, something that requires care and expertise.

You Need a Financial Dashboard

If all this sounds daunting, we do suggest that you meet with a professional, objective financial planner who will help you develop what is often called a financial dashboard. Just like the dashboard on your car, the gauges on your financial dashboard will constantly monitor the health of your savings, your investments, and your income sources in real time so you can make necessary adjustments quickly and easily and avoid unpleasant surprises that can quickly turn into financial disasters. Contact us here at AgingOptions and let us put you in touch with a planner you can trust to give you solid, practical advice.

As we said above, as important as money is, there’s much more to retirement planning than finances. A truly comprehensive plan for your retirement future also needs to help ensure that you’re making the right housing choices, that you and your estate are well-protected legally, that you have the right kind of medical insurance, and that your family is supportive of your desires as you age. The only retirement planning tool we know of that does all this is a LifePlan from AgingOptions, and if you’ll invest just a little bit of your time Rajiv Nagaich will gladly show you the power of this retirement planning breakthrough. Come join Rajiv at a free LifePlanning seminar at a location and time that works for you. You’ll find a complete calendar of currently-scheduled seminars on our Live Events page, where you can register for the LifePlanning Seminar of your choice.

Jamie Hopkins writing in Forbes said it well: “Those who have retirement plans in place have a happier, less stressful, and more financially secure retirement.” If that sounds good to you, come and learn about the benefits of an AgingOptions LifePlan.  Age on!

(originally reported at

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