Most would agree that women experience a dizzying array of life transitions. From getting a job, to getting married or not, to having children or not, to being divorced or widowed, throughout it all a woman needs an internal compass. Maybe you’re like me and still feel 30 years old, but all of a sudden everyone is talking about the words: Retirement, Medicare, and Social Security. What does that even mean today? What do I need to do?
My friend Jessie, has worked at a few different companies over the years. When we started to go through this process, she found assets she had misplaced and forgotten, such as 401k plans at old employers, scattered annuities from 10 years prior and the icing on the cake was a buyout of her Employee Stock Ownership Program from a prior employer which was imminent and over 3x the value of her employee shares. We found nearly $750,000 by going through this process of getting organized.
One word keeps resonating with me and its ORGANIZED. Life and retirement will be easier to manage and feel more secure when you get things organized. Have a plan, but allow for the unexpected. That’s part of the fun. Find your old statements and put them in one place. Review your resume to remember and locate old 401k plans from prior employers. Did you roll them over when you left? Where is all your money currently held? Are you happy with your accountant? Are you happy with your financial advisor? If the answer isn’t a resounding YES, then start looking for new ones. Friends are bound to have recommendations.
None of this is rocket science, but the jargon can be intimidating. Do you have difficulty reading your financial statements? It’s mindboggling how complicated it seems. It doesn't have to be this way with the right combination of experts and advice.
On the surface, planning for retirement seems like a mathematical exercise. We all hear the tenets: you need 80% of your income in retirement etc. If you treat it as such, you are missing the biggest component. Retirement doesn’t have to be a time to slow down. It can be the beginning of a whole new and exciting chapter of your life. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you begin to paint a picture of your future needs:
- Understand your lifestyle today. What are you spending?
- Imagine your lifestyle in 10 years’ time – Must haves, nice to have?
- Where will you live? Will you downsize or relocate?
- What debts will you have to pay off?
- Will you still work? Will you start a business? Will you travel?
- Will you pursue your hobbies? Do you have club memberships to support?
- How will you pay for medical costs beyond Medicare?
- Should you consider a long term care plan?
- How will you be looked after in old age when you need it?
- If you’re married, what happens if your spouse dies?
These topics should be on your mind when you are ready to meet with a financial advisor. Your time is better spent on what you love, what you do best and who you love. Let the planning experts do the work and help you make the key decisions. If you already have a financial advisor, meet with them and map this out. The earlier you start, the better off you will be.
Here are a few of my thoughts to prepare you:
- Inflation and taxes are a big threat to your lifestyle.
- Medical costs can be a hidden pothole on the road of retirement.
- No matter how much money you have, you will always feel it’s not enough.
- Our professional lives are a large portion of our world. A sense of loss can prevail when that is gone.
- The transition is challenging but if you have a new direction, you can easily manage this.
Put yourself first and start the process. Who knows what or who you will discover! The savvy woman inside will rise to the challenge and make it work.