“The Boomer” is a column written for adults nearing retirement age and those already in their “golden years.” It will also promote reader interaction by posting e-mail responses and answering reader questions. E-mail your questions or topic ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are more than 70 million baby boomers reaching retirement age, and we are a diverse bunch: some of us plan to hit the road and see the world, others are heading back to the classroom, and some of us are even starting our own business as encore careers.
But all of us have felt the impact of the latest financial crisis and watched our retirement savings take a hit, forcing us to re-evaluate some of our post-work life goals. But we won’t that stop us from living out our dreams, we just need to reassess and adjust our saving and spending plans.
Setting financial goals is the first step to making your financial retirement dreams come true. Certified Financial Planner and Founder of Alliance Wealth Management in Illinois, Jeff Rose, says every baby boomer is in a unique financial situation, and recommends every boomer commit to the following goals as they near retirement.
1. Cut out the debt. Boomers that have no credit card debt, own their house outright and have no car notes to speak of make the transition to retirement easier; not having the debt burden relieves a lot of stress.
Paying off debt before retirement also free up extra monies to spoil the grandkids, take an extended trip to Europe or cross off some items off that bucket list.
2. Keep building your savings. With baby boomers living longer than previous generations, I’ve never come across a boomer that told me, “Wow, I’ve just saved too much.”
You never know what life is going to throw at you and it’s important to make sure you have ample retirement savings. You also need cash savings on hand to provide more opportunities and flexibility in your golden years. If you’re still working, make sure to sock away as much as you can into your 401(k)s and IRAs, and keep building that emergency fund.
3. Get a budget. One of the biggest mistakes I see most baby boomers make is that they fail to actually plan a budget for their retirement expenses. Just “winging it” will not work. Boomers that shoot from the hip and guesstimate how much they need in retirement based off their spending will always find that they are off by at least a third of how much they actually spend. How do you plan for what you need if you have no idea what you’re spending?
4. Plan for big expenses. Another common mistake I see many baby boomers make, especially those that have worked at their job for 30-plus years is that they wait until retirement to buy their big-ticket items. Whether it’s a new truck they’ve put off or the RV that they’ve always wanted, they wait until retirement to actually make these big ticket purchases. If you have the cash to do so then it’s probably not as big an issue. If you’re going to use your retirement accounts, don’t forget the hefty tax bill involved in making such a big purchase item.
5. Get your estate in order. It’s estimated that 55% of the U.S. population doesn’t have a will and if you’re a baby boomer and fall into this statistic, then you better do something about it.
Meeting with a local attorney to draft a simple will can set you back a couple hundred bucks, or there are online services like Legal Zoom or Rocket Lawyer that will do it for a minimal cost. Getting your estate in order doesn’t just involve getting your will, it’s also making sure that you have your beneficiaries intact on your life insurance policies through retirement accounts, i.e. 401(k)s and IRAs and any annuity contracts that you may have.