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4 Questions for Retirement
Written By : Burton Widener 
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As you approach your retirement years you need to take stock to insure you are prepared for the new lifestyle you are about to embark upon. A good starting place is to attempt to answer these four basic questions. As you think about the answers, you will begin to recognize what the essential issues are that are important to your successful retirement and what steps you may need to take as you go forward. I use the singular "you" in this article, but obviously all of these issues apply equally to your partner as well.

1. When do you plan to retire?

This has to be the first question you need to think about. The problem is the answer to this question may depend upon the answers to the next three. So although you need to start with this question, you may find you will have to rethink this answer after you address the other three. By picking a target date at this point you are really setting a timetable that can be used to calculate your likely retirement income and expenses during your retirement years and determining if you can meet those requirements. As we proceed to review the following questions you will see what I am talking about.

2  What kind of lifestyle do you wish to pursue during retirement?

This question takes some thought. Simple answers like "I just want to relax and enjoy myself" are not specific enough. For instance, if travelling is part of your vision for your retirement years, you need to try to be as specific as you can. Will your travel be domestic or overseas, or a combination? How many trips of each type would you like to take each year? Will it be cruises, flights to resort destinations or perhaps driving? If driving, will you rent a vehicle or use your own? It is important that you be as complete as possible in this phase, as it will be a key to determining your financial requirements in your retirement years. Do you have hobbies you intend to pursue; if so what kinds of activities do they entail? I think you can get the idea. Again, be as specific as you can. It is probably worthwhile to make a list so you can refer to it later.  Don't restrict yourself at this stage; try to list all the "wants" as best you can. Are you planning on working at all during retirement? Is so, how much income do you anticipate earning? 

3. Where do you intend to live after retirement?

Are you satisfied with your current location? Think this through carefully, as it is a major issue. Will you be downsizing or staying in your current home? If you intend to relocate, consider the differences in the cost of living between your present location and your planned location. There can be significant differences. Also think about family. Many people who retire find they want to locate closer to grandchildren or other family members. How about climate? Consider your present and future health needs. Can you get any anticipated special medical requirements in your planned location?

4. What are your financial requirements and what are your sources of income?

Now comes the hard part. It is absolutely essential that you get this question right. The most common problem that arises for most retirees is money. The fear of not having enough funds to support themselves during retirement is almost always the top concern in any survey of persons who have been retired for more than five years. It is especially true in today's economical climate. This step requires a lot of detail analysis. If you want to make it a lot easier, you should get yourself a good home accounting software package. Don't be intimidated by this, the good ones are very intuitive and do not require any detailed knowledge of accounting to use. Probably the best on the market is Intuit's Quicken, which costs under $100 and is very easy to install and setup.

If you are really sure you can't do it yourself, you need to consult a professional financial planner, A word of caution: find  a "fee only" financial planner; avoid "no fee" financial planners, as they make their living from the commissions they earn from selling you stuff like insurance, annuities, and other investments. You want to be sure you are getting unbiased recommendations. Whether you decide to do it yourself or hire a professional, you will need to have the answers to questions one through three. Be prepared to fix estimated annual costs to all of the answers above, plus you will need to carefully identify and list all of your current and anticipated living expenses.

Finally identify all of your income, including anticipated retirement income from your private retirement plan as well as Social Security for yourself and your partner. Once you have done this you will have a much clearer and realistic picture of your retirement situation. Again, a good software program like Quicken will make this much easier as it contains a powerful financial planning tool that guides you through the process. 

At the end of this process you will be able to determine if your retirement plans are realistic, or what steps you need to take to make them possible.

About The Author: Burt Widener writes extensively on issues concerning retirement. His website at http://www.allthingsretired.com offers a range of articles and other resources to aid retired persons find answers to common questions regarding retirement.

Find out more about: retirement
 
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