When you are ready to retire, there are certain basic things you should do before you leave the comfort and security of your old job. You need to make final adjustments to your financial plan and make important decisions about Social Security and health insurance.
Here's a checklist for retiring in 2020:
-- Decide when to start Social Security.
-- Sign up for Medicare or other health insurance.
-- Check your retirement benefits.
-- Take advantage of last-minute benefits at work.
-- Consider rolling over your 401(k) to an IRA.
-- Make a financial plan.
-- Decide what to do next.
Remember to do these things if 2020 is the year you're finally going to take the leap into retirement.
Decide When to Start Social Security
You're eligible to claim Social Security payments beginning at age 62. However, you will receive a reduced payment unless you begin collecting benefits at your full retirement age, which varies depending on when you were born. For example, the full retirement age is 66 and 2 months for people born in 1955. You can increase your monthly payments if you sign up for Social Security after your full retirement age. Each year you wait, your monthly benefit grows by about 8%, up to age 70. Sign up for a my Social Security account to view how much you will receive from Social Security if you start payments at various ages.
Sign Up for Medicare or Other Health Insurance
Medicare coverage begins at age 65, regardless of your Social Security full retirement age. When you enroll in the program you will need to make decisions about Medicare supplement plans and prescription drug coverage or Medicare Advantage plans. If you retire before age 65, you have to figure out how to get medical insurance that isn't connected to your job. Some people qualify for health insurance through an old employer, professional organization or a working spouse's health insurance plan. You can also obtain coverage through your state's health insurance marketplace until you qualify for Medicare.
Check Your Retirement Benefits
Confirm eligibility for a pension or other retirement benefits you earned at work. Also, check to see if you qualify for benefits from a previous employer. You might collect income from two or three places where you worked during your career. Find out if you're eligible for retiree employer-subsidized health insurance. Check to see if retirees can take advantage of any other company-sponsored benefits, from life insurance to membership in a health club to employee discounts on company products.
Take Advantage of Last-Minute Benefits at Work
If you have dental and vision coverage at work, you may want to visit the dentist and pick up a new pair of glasses before you retire. If the company matches any charitable giving, then make your annual contribution before you retire. If your child has an employer-sponsored college scholarship, see if the scholarship will continue after you leave. This is your last chance to use the benefits the company offers.
Consider Rolling Over Your 401(k) to an IRA
Employers typically allow you to keep your 401(k) account with the company after you retire. However, you might be better off transferring the money to an IRA or Roth IRA. IRAs typically have more investment options, and you can shop around for lower cost or better performing funds. If you own company stock, either inside or outside a retirement plan, now may be the time to sell some in order to diversify your holdings. You may also want to tweak your investment strategy and make a plan to minimize taxes as you draw down your retirement assets.
Make a Financial Plan
There's more to financial planning than tending to an IRA. Try to make a budget that details your expected income from Social Security, pensions, retirement savings, other investments and part-time work. Then estimate how much you're going to spend. The estimate may have contingencies, such as spending less by moving to a lower cost community or spending more if you're planning to travel, but you should have some idea of what your expenditures are going to be, at least for the next few years. Don't forget to include an emergency fund, in case of unexpected bills like a medical emergency or major home repair.
Decide What to Do Next
There's more to retirement than your finances. Try to imagine what your retirement life is going to look like. There are major decisions to be made about what you are going to do each day. Perhaps you are planning to move to a new location, buy a beach cottage or extensively travel. Maybe you're going to play golf, learn a foreign language, start a second career or take care of your grandchildren. When you're retired you have the freedom to do what you want, which means you have to identify something meaningful that will keep you active and engaged in life.
Tom Sightings is the author of "You Only Retire Once" and blogs at Sightings at 60.