Planning for retirement means preparing for an unknown future. To help understand what to expect, the MIT AgeLab has grouped retirement into four phases:
- Honeymoon: characterized by part-time work and volunteerism as we ease into retirement.
- Big Decision: characterized by free time and the time to make decisions about funding our lifestyle long-term.
- Longevity: characterized by more efforts going into health management and making suitable housing decisions.
- Solo Journey: characterized by the serious illness or death of a spouse, which can impact well-being and safety.
While everyone’s journey is different, this brings to light some considerations for those of us planning for retirement and a possible lifestyle change:
- Can we maintain our mobility and make modifications to our home to meet our changing needs?
- If we stay in our current home, how much of our finances do we need to continue setting aside for maintenance, utilities, real estate taxes, insurance, etc.? Will we be asset-rich but cash-poor if we don’t downsize?
- What transportation will be available if we reach the point where we can no longer drive?
It is much easier to downsize on our own terms and determine where we want our legacy pieces to go, rather than having to rely on family to make those decisions for us later.
If our children and friends have moved away, loneliness and security concerns can have a big effect on our emotional health. Knowing what community living options are available (as well as their cost) can help us plan for that next step.
It’s always easier to plan when we have the luxury of time and distance—without being forced to make a sudden change due to finances, illness or death. For those approaching retirement, now is the time to take steps to make future changes easier:
- Start cleaning out the “dark spaces” in your home now. These are the areas where you store things you don’t know what to do with or don’t use very often. Ask yourself: Do I love it, need it or have I used it in the past six months? If it’s no, no and no, it is time to go.
- Tackle the two Ps: paper and pictures. Shred old records, donate old books, and throw out old manuals, magazines, recipes, etc. Tackle your photo albums and consider having your favorite family photos scanned electronically—a digital memory book is much easier to store.
- Make a list of your favorite items that you always want to keep. Evaluate what did not make the list and consider selling, donating or giving them away.
- Talk to your family about legacy items so you know where they will go. Now is the time to have that artwork or antique appraised so you know their approximate value if you are considering selling some items.
- Keep your financial papers, wills, etc. in a secure place—and let one of your heirs know where to look should the need arise.
There is much to consider, but also much to gain as we move in a new direction when we retire. Finding the right resources can be critical. While it starts with understanding our finances, we also should be cognizant of the real estate market, the right time to downsize, and alternative lifestyle options that may be available. With some planning and forethought, retirement can be a new and exciting beginning. PM
Silver Evolutions helps individuals and their families with the physical and emotional aspects of downsizing or developing an age-in-place plan. Learn more at silverevolutions.com.