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Planning to Retire in the Next Few Years? Here Are 3 Big-Picture Questions to See If You’re Financially and Emotionally Prepared

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Retirement planning is a complex process, especially when it’s done correctly. The professional team at AgingOptions, led by Rajiv Nagaich, has spent the past two decades guiding thousands of clients, seminar guests, and radio listeners along the pathway to a brighter retirement future. We’re the first to acknowledge that knowing where to begin planning for retirement – or even thinking seriously about it – can be a daunting challenge for many.

With that in mind, we’re bringing you this simple and straightforward article from Kiplingerwritten by financial planner Julie Verta. She offers a pretty decent place to start, primarily for those who see their retirement horizon as being three to five years in the future. Based on Verta’s experience with her clients, she recommends asking yourself three big picture questions to help provide a very general gauge of overall retirement preparedness.

We don’t necessarily agree with everything Verta writes, and her approach is a little bit simplistic, but her three questions aren’t a bad starting place. And here’s something to note: only one of these questions deals directly with finances. Ready? Let’s read on.

A Critical Window for Retirement Planning

Writing in Kiplinger, Verta begins, “It may take decades over the course of a career to save for retirement, but there is a small and defined window of time leading up to one’s golden years that is exceptionally critical when it comes to planning. I often work with my clients three to five years ahead of their anticipated retirement to fine-tune their plan, reviewing everything from financial expectations, probable lifestyle changes or decisions, and often-overlooked non-financial considerations.”

Below, Verta outlines the three significant questions that she believes can help create a basic roadmap for planning a comfortable and stable retirement. Again, we want to re-emphasize that these represent a starting place in your planning, not a finished product.

Question #1: How Does Today’s Economy Affect Your Future?

As the old adage suggests, when seeking direction, first figure out where you are! In her article, Verta empathizes with the worries many have about inflation and a potential recession. Nevertheless, she urges discipline in your investment approach. “Keep a long-term perspective,” she advises, “and don’t let current market noise distract or influence notable portfolio changes, as that could negatively impact meeting future retirement and investment goals.”

That’s not to say future retirees should turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to current market volatility. “At most,” she adds, “the current market environment may lend an opportunity to rebalance. If a pre-retiree investor is now underweight in stocks due to the market dip, they should consider allocating more bonds to stocks to get back to their target allocation.”

Verta advises her clients to proactively plan for building a larger cash nest-egg to pull from earlier in retirement. “Once someone starts spending from their portfolio in retirement,” she explains, “I recommend having six to 12 months of liquid expenses for their upcoming spending. Amid the current market environment, if someone has the financial wherewithal while on a steady income stream, sock away these future funds that may be tapped later in life.”

Question #2: What Lifestyle Do You Expect in Retirement?

We were relieved to see Verta switch gears for her next question. After all, retirement isn’t just about finances – it’s about quality of life, not just quantity! “Retirement can be a sizable time frame of one’s life – 20 to 30 years or even more,” she writes. “How that time is spent is important.” We say amen to that.

We’ve spoken on the blog many times before about lack of purpose and fulfillment during retirement, and Verta confirms that she sees this all too often with her clients. This aimlessness can have financial consequences, of course, but more often an unfulfilling retirement takes an emotional and mental health toll.

Her advice? Do your mental homework. “In the years before retirement,” she writes, “determine what your ideal lifestyle should look like. How do you want to spend your days? What is important to keep you mentally stimulated? Will your spouse/partner join you? Three to five years before retirement, if time allows, treat this window as a dress rehearsal.”

One way to do that is to give your plans a test drive. “For example, if volunteering is important, join one or two organizations in advance to ensure that the activity and time spent will align with your future retirement objectives.”

Question #3: Is Your Spouse on the Same Page?

Here’s one area where assuming your spouse agrees with you about retirement can create real tension. “I recently had a husband and wife client decide to retire at the same time, even though one partner was almost 10 years away from traditional retirement age,” Verta writes. “The rationale? It was imperative for this couple to experience this new phase of life together.”

Verta is first to admit that this scenario of choosing simultaneous retirement might not be ideal for everyone. Nevertheless, she advises every couple to carefully think through the relationship dynamics ahead of retirement for one or both of you. “For some,” she explains, “having one spouse continue in their career and remain in that ‘9 to 5’ mindset works; it doesn’t upset the household balance that was in play for years prior. For others, it might spur a range of emotions that otherwise weren’t thought about in advance.”

She adds, “Of equal significance is discussing long-term lifestyle plans among partners. Upon retirement, will you move to be intentionally closer to children and grandchildren, or move to a more tax-advantageous state? Will you travel internationally or purchase a vacation home? Think about retirement goals, and what they look like both individually and as a couple – mapping this perceived lifestyle out in advance will help both partners stay on the same page to enjoy a successful retirement.”

Verta states that she knows that even a carefully-planned retirement is “subject to evolve,” but having even a “broad brush” plan is better than nothing. When a person or couple takes the time to do this, “they are often much better aligned for success than those without a plan.”

My Life, My Plan, My Way: Get Started on the Path to Retirement Success

At AgingOptions we believe the key to a secure retirement is the right retirement plan – yet statistics show that 70 percent of retirement plans fail. That’s why for nearly two decades we’ve been dedicated to the proposition that a carefully-crafted, fully comprehensive retirement plan is the best answer to virtually any contingency life may throw your way as you age.  Our slogan says it all: My Life, My Plan, My Way.

When it comes to retirement planning, most people focus on one fairly narrow issue: money. Financial planning is an important component of retirement planning. However, people heading towards retirement often make the mistake of thinking that a little financial planning is all that’s required, when in fact most financial plans are woefully inadequate. What about your medical coverage? What if you have to make a change in your housing status – will that knock your financial plan off course? Are you adequately prepared legally for the realities of retirement and estate planning? And is your family equipped to support your plans for the future as you age?

The best way we know of to successfully blend all these elements together – finance, medical, housing, legal and family – is with a LifePlan from AgingOptions. Thousands of people have discovered the power of LifePlanning and we encourage you to the same. Simply visit our website and discover a world of retirement planning resources.  Make certain your retirement planning is truly comprehensive and complete with an AgingOptions LifePlan.  Age on!

(originally reported at

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