For many, planning for the later stages of life can mean answering tough questions about retirement and one’s longevity.
You might think it’s too late for you to start planning and saving for retirement, but as someone who has long advised people about their financial options and future, I believe it’s better late than never.
If you have not yet gotten specific about your retirement, it’s time to start thinking about it. In my opinion, it’s never too early to begin your retirement planning, and once you have formed a plan, revisit it periodically. There are seemingly endless resources to help you brainstorm, which might be overwhelming to some. In my experience, it’s helpful to review more than one list and perspective in your research so you can get a well-rounded view of retirement planning. And what I believe is most important: Always be clear whether a source of information is trying to sell you a product or service.
Throughout my experience of helping clients plan for financial futures, I’ve developed a few key tips to help you get started.
Ask yourself: Are you gambling, or are you really planning?
One of the things a planning-for-retirement checklist should include is an approximation of your life expectancy. From a retirement standpoint, this is important because you don’t really know the size your nest egg will need to be if you don’t have an idea of how long it will need to last.
There are a number retirement savings calculators out there, many of which ask for an estimation of longevity, so try to find a life expectancy chart or calculator online. If this metric seems troubling, remember that other entities, such as life insurance providers, have likely had to make this calculation as well. Arm yourself with the information, rather than fear it. This way, you will know how much you need to save once it’s time for you to retire.
Calculate the inevitable, then work backward
There are things you can do to affect your health and longevity, and I find the conversation that surrounds living a longer, healthier life is one of several positive outcomes that result from understanding and accepting your mortality.
I believe another silver lining of understanding your own longevity is the opportunity it gives you to get all of your retirement and end-of-life planning right. I observed that even people who have certain factors in place, such as an advanced care directive, power of attorney or trust, have still not always given sufficient weight to other crucial decisions.
For instance, even if you have long-term-care insurance, have you investigated related options, such as potential in-home care costs? What are your assisted living and nursing facility options, and is there a waiting list?
Make a list of any unanswered variables like these and begin researching the answers and options. Your research will likely add additional questions, even as you answer others. In my experience, that’s a good thing; it will make for a more thorough life plan. Similarly, with each professional (i.e., financial advisors, attorneys, medical professionals, etc.) you encounter in your planning, ask them which questions they would be asking themselves. This can be a powerful way to learn the questions — and eventually the answers — you hadn’t considered asking yourself.
From my perspective, you’re creating a dynamic plan that will continue to evolve the longer you live and as your needs change, so don’t be intimidated by the fact that your plan is never completely finished. That’s the nature of it: to evolve and grow as you do.
Plan for the timetable, but spend your time living
Having information is important, but don’t let it stop you from living your life. Over the past 30 years, I have worked closely with people who were facing old age or combatting serious illnesses. I found that those who healthfully included lifespan discussions and planned earlier (and on an ongoing basis) were more comfortable and invested in the opportunities they still had before them.
You can seek guidance professionally or on your own about accepting mortality in order to help lessen the anxiety that tends to surround death. You might even find comfort in planning ahead, and that “planning” approach syncs with the processes discussed above.
When it comes to planning for the rest of your life, it’s important to consider your retirement, life expectancy and other end-of-life variables. As you look toward retirement or undergo life changes, be sure to ask yourself: Do I have all of the information I need to make sound life decisions? Then, make a plan.
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