It will be a happy day when you can reap the rewards of a work-free life. Of course, you can’t just put in your two weeks notice and expect everything to fall into place. Retirement is a serious step in your life, and you should treat it as such. While you have your own idea of the perfect retirement, knowing your goals and actually achieving them are two different things. You’ll need to budget and save, possibly adjust your lifestyle and understand how Social Security works.
Budget and Save
It’s difficult to save for retirement if you don’t know how much you need. CNN Money insists you need at least 70 percent of your working salary to live comfortably in retirement. This number will increase if you want to go back to school, travel or pursue any other expensive goals. You may live on less if you’re planning on moving to a less expensive area. Typically Social Security and pensions won’t be enough money for retirement, so if you haven’t invested any money in a retirement account (401k, stocks or bonds), the earlier you start, the better. Use the savings calculator in the Resources section to see if your savings will sustain you in retirement.
Plan Lifestyle Changes
Moving to a lower cost region or one with many cultural attractions is a popular choice among retirees. Do you want to live closer to family or buy a scenic, secluded home in the mountains? Moving requires a good amount of advance planning, so weigh the pros and cons seriously. Use a cost of living calculator to see how far your money will take you. You may also consider working part-time to keep an active social life or to supplement meager savings. Working past retirement age and forgoing Social Security until your late 60s or age 70 will provide you with an increased retirement benefit, which in turn allows you to quit your part-time job if desired.
Apply for Social Security Retirement
You can start receiving Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62, but this is only advisable if you have enough extra money in savings or pensions to support it. Many people wait until full retirement age to receive benefits. Your full retirement age varies depending on your birth year: if you were born in 1942 or earlier, your full retirement age is 65; if you were born between 1943 and 1959, your full retirement age is 66; if you were born in 1960 or later your full retirement age is 67. To give you an idea of how much you might receive, the average monthly amount paid to beneficiaries in September 2010 was $1172. You can apply for retirement benefits online at ssa.gov, or call 800-772-1213 to make an appointment to apply.
Apply for Medicare
Medicare is another essential retirement procedure, one on which you will receive information when you apply for retirement. Medicare is a government-run health insurance program available to those 65 or older. You can still sign up for Medicare even if you’re not going to retire at age 65—in fact, the SSA advises you to do this because your premiums may go up the older you get. You can apply for Medicare online at ssa.gov, or call 800-633-4227 to receive more information.
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