There is no better time to plan things out than when you are officially approaching retirement. But, what does it mean to be approaching retirement? And, what does it really mean to plan things out?
First off, if you are within ten years from retiring and haven’t modeled out your retirement-income plan, it’s time. For many, the idea of doing a retirement-income plan is as unappealing as a root canal. If done well, it really shouldn’t feel that bad!
The retirement-income planning process certainly shouldn’t culminate in an almost-useless, thick report containing a bunch of colorful charts and endless pages of numbers. We all know where that type of report ends up.
Instead, a quality retirement-income plan should help you do two simple things. The goal is to set a reasonable destination and show you a clear set of paths to get there. Most importantly, it should be kept up-to-date to help you confidently re-route as your life inevitably changes.
A retirement-income plan starts with three key building blocks; an inventory of your finances, a picture of how you want to live in retirement and your estimated time of arrival.
The first building block is taking an inventory of your current and future financial resources that will support your retirement years. It starts with tallying up your current investments and layering in your future savings. But, your future resources might include financial events, such as the sale of your business or the decision to downsize your home. Of course, your financial inventory should also include your expected Social Security benefits, possible pension benefits and even a transition to part-time work for a stretch.
The second building block is to summarize your expected living costs in retirement. Just forget the ugly word, budget. Instead, a nicer term is a living cost summary. This is just an assessment of all of your expenses today and after you retire. In the end, all spending is a choice and a living cost summary is just a reflection of your values and priorities. It doesn’t have to be overly precise, but it does need to be honest.
The third building block is to define your desired time of arrival to the point where your work becomes optional. That’s the true working definition of retirement, after all! By the way, this doesn’t have to be viewed as an on-off switch. For some people, it can be a transition.
With your financial inventory, your living cost summary and time of arrival established, a robust retirement-income model can then be created. If it’s done right, it should give you a clear picture of your financial future that deepens your understanding. Importantly, any model worth its salt should allow for the flexibility to test and retest the choices you make today and tomorrow. Think of it as a living map. That’s a whole lot better than a root canal!