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Making the retirement decision

When should a person who is working start planning for his/her eventual retirement? It is never too early to start even though it may seem like that time is in the far distant future. Waiting to get ready a year or two before retirement is too late as far as saving and investing for the future goes. The earlier in your career you start, the better. Always contribute the maximum allowed by your employer to your 401(k) or other plan to take advantage of company matches.

You should be realistic as you set your goals. There are retirement planning advisors who can help you through the maze of decisions to be made. If you are confident that you can handle the planning process on your own, there are online resources available to assist you in making this important decision.

First, determine the point in time you will be able to retire financially. Second, look into how your medical insurance will be affected. Third, consider all the options available from social security and how timing will affect the amount of your income. Fourth, make plans to pay off your mortgage and other debts. Lastly, think about the emotional affect on you and a spouse, if you have one.

Retirement brings a huge change in your lifestyle. Think about how you will spend your time when you no longer go to work every day. Do you have hobbies you enjoy? Do you like to travel? Is your family close by or in a distant city(ies)? Do you have the support and agreement from your significant other on retiring? Are there other dependents who rely on you financially and emotionally?

When you begin considering the financial impact, you should determine the amount of income you will receive each month. Also, a very important part is to figure a realistic estimate on your monthly expenses. It may be true that monthly costs will decrease when you are no longer working but don’t ignore any of the recurring expenses plus the unknown or unanticipated ones. Becoming financially strapped during your “Golden Years” is a situation you want to avoid.

Many retirees find themselves bored, restless or lonely in retirement. Many have to go back to work, often for less pay prior to retirement, just to make ends meet. Others take a part-time job just to establish some routine in their life, feel productive again and have regular interaction with people. Developing new friends and participating in social events have proven to be very valuable, keeping the person mentally and physically healthier. Staying active is of utmost importance.

Be aware of the proliferation of scams aimed at older people. This is no time to be naive or gullible or you may be taken advantage of by dishonest people. Don’t give away money to people or organizations you are not familiar with or have not checked out. There are no “get rich quick” schemes that will benefit you. Sending money from a request by phone or email from people you don’t know to foreign countries with a promise of large returns is fraudulent. The grandmother or grandfather scheme is prevalent where a scammer pretends to be your grandchild who needs money quickly. There have been intelligent people who believed the caller and lost substantial amounts of money. Talk to a family member before you get suckered into one of these common scams.

You may be an employee of a company that offers a lucrative package to take early retirement. This happens quite often as companies try to downsize and cut labor costs. Weigh out all the pros and cons before jumping to acceptance. Don’t allow other people who are not familiar with your total situation to influence you either way. What may be a great opportunity for one doesn’t necessarily make it the best option for someone else.

Making the decision on when to retire is not a simple one. Don’t rush into it. Run the numbers so you can see where you stand. Utilizing the expertise of a financial planner and your CPA is wise. They will often point out things you may have never thought of on your own.

After you have worked hard for many years you deserve a happy retirement. Taking precautions and wise planning can ensure that retirement is a joyful time in your life.

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank. Email her at bvaughnfurlow@gmail.com.