Are you ready for retirement? You may be someone who has looked forward to retiring from the day you started working, or maybe you won't ever completely stop working.
No matter what you've envisioned, it's a very important milestone, and the retirement date you choose will be defined by more than just your age. You should also consider these four things.
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1. You've evaluated your Social Security options
Navigating Social Security can seem complex, but learning about the program before you retire can help you make a decision that's best for you. If you take your benefit at your full retirement age (FRA), which is either 66, 67, or somewhere in between, you will receive your standard benefit. You can take Social Security as soon as age 62, but your benefit will be reduced for every month that you start it early. You can also delay it to age 70, and you'll get a bigger benefit for every month past your FRA that you wait.
For example, if your FRA is 66 and your standard benefit is $2,000, your reduced benefit at age 62 will be $1,500, while your delayed benefit at age 70 will be $2,640. If you live to 75, you will receive $234,000 in total lifetime income with your early benefit, $216,000 from your standard benefit, and $158,400 from your delayed benefit. If you live until 80, your reduced benefit will pay you a total of $324,00, your standard benefit $336,000, and your delayed benefit $316,800. But if you live to 90, your early benefit will pay you $504,000, your standard benefit $576,000, and your delayed benefit $633,600.
When you take Social Security may be based on your income needs. But if that's not your primary deciding factor, things like longevity could play a huge role in how much you can receive over your lifetime. If you have health issues, it may make sense to claim it early. But the longer you expect to live, the more sense delaying it makes.
2. You've created a budget
Your budget will take into account your income in retirement and your expenses. Your income will come from Social Security, a pension, or investments like dividend-paying stocks, and your expenses will include things like your mortgage, healthcare, or a car loan.
If you eliminate a lot of your expenses before you retire, the amount of money you need month to month could be a lot lower than while you were working. But it could stay relatively the same if you don't cut expenses, or if you replace them with other things like hobbies and travel.
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Creating a budget will give you a good idea in advance of what your expenses will be. If you have a shortfall, you can find more ways to earn income -- like part-time work after you've retired. Or try to figure out which expenses can be further reduced. Your medical expenses will have very little flexibility, for example, but your travel budget can be altered as necessary.
3. You've saved enough (or have a plan for addressing shortfalls)
Another way to make up for shortfalls in retirement is with retirement savings. For instance, if your income in retirement will be $30,000 a year, but your expenses are $50,000, you'll need another $20,000 annually from your savings. Experts agree that taking no more than about 4% each year from your retirement assets is a good way of ensuring that you don't run out of money. In this scenario, generating $20,000 a year from savings would require a balance of $500,000.
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If you don't have that much saved, consider increasing your contributions before you retire. If you are five years away from your ideal retirement date, maxing out your 401(k) every year with a $19,500 contribution plus the $6,500 catch-up allowance would add up to $130,000 over five years -- and it could grow even more with positive stock market returns.
4. You've thought about what life in retirement looks like and are emotionally ready
You may have given a lot of consideration to the financial aspects of retirement, but how much have you thought about the emotional side? Depending on how old you were when you started working, you could spend anywhere from 30 to 40 years of your life working 40 hours or more a week.
One sign that you may be ready for retirement is that you've thought about how you will fill this time. Maybe you want to spend your retirement years traveling or pursuing hobbies. Or perhaps you plan on working part-time or volunteering. Figuring all of this out in advance can help you make the most of this period of your life.
You could potentially spend decades in retirement. And when you start should involve more than just turning a certain age. Making sure that you're financially and mentally prepared can help ensure these special years are even more fulfilling.