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You’re in Charge: Six Ways to Take More Control of Your Retirement

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Recently we ran across an article on the “Money” website of US News that we felt might encourage some of our readers and listeners who are uneasy about retirement – especially if, like many, you’re worried giving up a lot of control over your life after you retire. The fact is, as this reassuring article asserts, you probably have far more control over both your retirement finances and your lifestyle than you may think.

We encourage you to click here to read this timely article, titled “6 Ways to Take Control of Your Retirement” and written by retirement author Tom Sightings. Some of the pre-retirement apprehension he writes about matches the worries many have shared with us at our LifePlanning Seminars. “One of the most unsettling aspects of retirement is that you give up a lot of control in life,” says Sightings. “You no longer have a job with a paycheck and occasional raises and promotions, and you also lose the social network at work and maybe the responsibility for a department, project or a group of employees.” Add to this the challenges of your aging and increasingly independent adult kids, plus friends who you may suddenly find slipping out of your life due to illness or relocation to a retirement home of their own, and you may start feeling overwhelmed by fear of change. “Suddenly you are cast out into the world alone, and you don’t know what the future holds,” says Sightings.

But, he asserts, here’s the good news: “you have more control over how your retirement will develop than many people think.” We’ll review the six key steps he says you can take to improve your retirement outlook. See if some of these resonate with you and help you lay aside your fears and regain a sense of control.

For starters, the author writes, you can control when you leave work. “Only you can strike the right balance between the rewards and the costs of your career,” Sightings says. You (and probably your spouse) are the only ones qualified to decide whether you enjoy your job enough to keep at it or whether the grind is really starting to get you down. The message here seems to be that you don’t necessarily have to feel stuck working full time longer than you think you can. “Of course, the longer you work, the better off your finances will be,” Sightings writes, “but that’s beside the point if your job is killing you.”

The second point is obvious, and one we’ve reviewed here before: you can control when you start receiving Social Security benefits. There’s not much to add here, since most people know the arguments. Yes, most retirees can start benefits early, at age 62, and some may have to for financial reasons – but if you can wait until full retirement at age 66 (for most baby boomers), or better still until age 70, not only will your benefit be dramatically larger for the rest of your life, but so too will your spouse’s benefit, in many cases, if you have been the primary wage earner. Contact us at AgingOptions: we’ll review your situation and help you make the best choice.

The third area of control will probably also require expert advice. You can control when to tap into your savings. This can be complicated depending on the amount of your savings and your other sources of income, and withdrawals from most non-Roth IRA’s will impact your taxes, so we do suggest getting professional advice, especially if you’re approaching the age when savings withdrawals are required by the IRS (currently 70 ½). We can help you here as well.

There’s more to retirement than money, of course, so we appreciate the fact that the US News article includes a few “lifestyle worries” on the list. Retirement expert Tom Sightings wants you to remember that you can control both where you live and also how you live. Those are the fourth and fifth areas over which you have more control than you may think. When it comes to deciding where to live in retirement, he says don’t feel pressured to move to Arizona or Florida, or to buy the condo, or to upsize or downsize just because other people you know may be doing it. Only you know what’s right for you. And as for how you spend your time and money, forget the peer pressure, especially when it comes to expensive pastimes like travel, which many associate with retirement years. As Sightings writes, “Some people dream of traveling the world and have a bucket list that comprises dozens of exciting adventures and exotic destinations. That’s fine, if that’s what you want and can afford. But you don’t have to travel when you retire.” He adds, “Many retirees find satisfaction in helping to raise their grandchildren, volunteering in their hometown, spending time with a social group or playing their favorite sport. There are also much lower costs and perhaps less stress if you stay put. Now it’s finally time to lead the life you love, which might mean seeing the world or staying at home.”

Finally, Sightings suggests, remember that you can control what to do with your money – or as he puts it, “whether to give back or hand down.” His advice, if you want to leave a legacy to your kids, is to consider sharing your resources with them while they’re younger and may need the funds more urgently. Similarly, if you have a charity or church in mind as the recipient of a charitable gift from your estate, there may be good tax reasons (and personal satisfaction) to make some of those gifts sooner, not later. Here’s one concluding piece of advice we wholeheartedly endorse: “Either way, it’s advisable to include your children in your planning process so they are aware of your desires and can plan their own futures.”

Communicating your wishes to your loved ones is a vital part of a well-rounded retirement plan, and it’s part of what we here at AgingOptions call a LifePlan. The LifePlanning strategy of retirement also includes your finances, your legal protection, your housing choices and your medical coverage requirements, all interconnected into a seamless retirement strategy. Can you begin to see how having a LifePlan can help banish the fear you may be experiencing as you face your retirement future? Why not take the next step and attend one of our free LifePlanning Seminars? We offer these highly popular workshops at locations throughout the area. Click here to select your seminar and register online, or call us during the week so we can assist you by phone.

It’s time to put away “retirement fears” once and for all – with the power of LifePlanning from AgingOptions.

(originally reported at


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