Half-Year Countdown: What to Do in the 6 Months Before Retirement

Written by mwealthgroup
Published on November 29, 2023

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Before you jump into the retirement lifestyle - full of leisurely mornings, making your own schedule, starting new hobbies, and time with family…It's time to make sure your ducks in a row. 

Retirement is only 6 months away…Are you truly ready?

With some savvy planning, you'll be prepared to make the most of your golden years. Let’s delve into what to do in the 6 months before retirement. We’ll help you make the most of the next half year before you retire!

Why is retirement planning important?

Preparing for retirement is one of the most important things you’ll do to set yourself up for success in your later years.

After decades in the workforce, you deserve to reap the rewards of retirement. Proper retirement planning helps you transition smoothly when you face a fixed income and feel secure in your financial position. 

Proper retirement planning = Financial security

Smart retirement planning allows you to maintain your lifestyle, partake in leisure activities, and have peace of mind that your nest egg will last you the rest of your life and, potentially, your family’s life. 

Why are the six months before retirement so crucial…

The final six months before retirement are considered “crunch time.”

They're like the final lap in a long race. The choices you make now can have a big impact on how your retirement goes. It's a chance to double-check plans, make smart moves, and prepare for the next chapter. During this time, it's a good idea to ask for help from financial experts.

The work you do now can lead to greater financial freedom and security throughout your retirement. 

So let’s cross our t’s and dot our i’s to make these final six months count!

13 Steps to Fully Prepare in the 6 Months Before Retirement

1. Review Your Numbers

Your journey to a stable retirement begins with having a clear view of your financial standing. 

  • So, first things first, take a deep breath and look at all your financial accounts. Make sure to dig deep here, as there are often accounts that are forgotten.
  • Compile all your debts and assets in one place. You’ll need to know exactly how much you have. 

At this stage, the expertise of a financial advisor becomes invaluable. With their guidance, you can navigate your finances with ease and monitor your funds, ensuring they align with your retirement goals. 

Tip: A free tool we like to use is called RocketMoney. It will help you organize your income and expenses.

2. Create a Realistic Retirement Budget

Clarity on your monthly and yearly budget during retirement becomes crucial in the six months before. 

  • Take inventory of your monthly recurring expenses, including mortgage, utilities, food/dining, etc.
  • Budget for fun stuff: Retirement is meant to be enjoyed! Be sure to allocate funds for activities that add zest to life, whether it's a hobby, travel, or health and wellness care like weekly massages.
  • Allocate money to a “reserves” fund: Life often throws curveballs when we least expect it. Establish a reserve fund to safeguard yourself from unexpected costs like healthcare, home repairs, or emergency travel. This financial buffer will give you peace of mind to enjoy retirement, knowing you're prepared for surprise expenses.

3. Manage Necessary Debts

Transitioning into retirement debt-free can feel liberating. Living unencumbered by monthly loans or credit card payments gives you greater flexibility and control over your fixed retirement income. 

Here's how to make it happen:

  • Make a list of debts from highest interest rate to lowest. Knock out those pricey high-interest debts as fast as possible to stop them from ballooning.
  • Consider rolling multiple debts into one through consolidation. This can potentially lower your overall interest rate for easier management under one payment.

Remember: Not all debt is bad, especially if it is an investment. Having tenants pay the mortgage on a rental property or carrying manageable debt on other investments can provide income in retirement. The key is ensuring the debt remains reasonable compared to the value it provides.

4. Boost Your Retirement Savings

martin matthews pointing to a white board about retirement planning

Give your retirement funds an eleventh-hour boost by maximizing contributions in your final working years. Here are last-minute ways to enlarge your nest egg:

  • Max Out Contributions: If possible, contribute up to the annual limit in your retirement accounts to turbocharge your savings. 
    • 401K: The total employee contribution limit to all 401(k) and 403(b) plans for those under 50 will increase from $22,500 in 2023 to $23,000 in 2024.
    • Roth IRA: IRA contribution limits and catch-up contributions will increase from $6,500 ($7,500 if you're 50+) in 2023 to $7,000 ($8,000 if you're 50+) in 2024.
    • HSA: For single people, the HSA contribution limit will increase from $3,850 in 2023 to $4,150 in 2024. Family coverage will increase from $7,750 to $8,300.
  • Use Catch-Up Contributions: When you turn 50, many accounts allow catch-up contributions above the normal limit. Typically, you can contribute an extra one thousand dollars.
  • Leverage Life Insurance: Besides traditional retirement accounts, consider utilizing a permanent life insurance policy. These policies include a cash value component that grows tax-deferred over time. You can contribute premium payments that exceed the insurance cost, which can then be invested and grow on a tax-advantaged basis. Moreover, you can borrow against the cash value of your life insurance policy tax-free, which can serve as a supplemental source of retirement income. 

As with any financial strategy, it's crucial to review the costs and benefits of certain approaches to boosting your retirement savings. Consult with a financial advisor to ensure it aligns with your retirement goals.

5. Managing Living Costs

As retirement nears, be picky about where you spend your hard-earned money. 

  • Scrutinize your expenses and prioritize necessities. Avoid unnecessary big-ticket purchases that can diminish your retirement savings. A budget focused on essential needs will help you maintain financial stability.
  • Consider downsizing your home or lifestyle to reduce living costs. Downsizing can increase your savings and decrease monthly expenses.
  • Be strategic about shopping. Look for sales, use discounts, and avoid impulse buying to ensure your purchases are planned and necessary.

*Keep a close eye on your finances and adjust your budget as needed, ensuring that you live within your means without compromising on your quality of life.

6. Relocation Considerations

Are you considering moving before you retire?

Many seniors move closer to their family or to an area with a lower cost of living expenses.

Choosing where to live in retirement requires thought beyond just scenery. 

Be sure to:

  • Compare expenses in potential areas to find a financially comfortable fit.
  • Ensure the location meets your needs for things like proximity to family, healthcare, community, activities, and overall culture.
  • Visit the area before deciding to move there

Do your homework to find a retirement destination that aligns with your budget and lifestyle vision. You want to love where you live for the rest of your years!

7. Understand Your Social Security (SSI) Benefits

The promise of Social Security benefits can feel like the light at the end of a long career tunnel. For many retirees, these benefits form a good chunk of their post-retirement income.

The earliest you can start receiving Social Security retirement benefits is 62. However, waiting until your full retirement age (which varies by birth year but hovers around 67 for those born in 1960 or later) can significantly boost your monthly benefit amount.

Did you know that for every year you delay taking Social Security benefits past your full retirement age, you receive an 8% increase in your monthly amount until age 70? It's a strategic game that, played right, can pay off in the long run.

Tip: Keep an eye on potential social security benefit cuts, as there is likely to be more in the coming years.

8. Consider Long-term Care Insurance

Imagine a safety net that promises to catch you when health challenges strike in the later stages of life. That's the essence of long-term care insurance.

Nearly 70% of people turning 65 will need some form of long-term care in their lifetime. While it's a sobering statistic, it underscores the necessity of long-term care insurance.

When considering a policy, reflect on the coverage duration, daily benefit amount, and waiting period. Remember, the cost of insurance typically increases with age, so earlier is often better.

9. Sustaining Your Lifestyle & Cash Flow in Retirement

maintaining lifestyle in retirement

Maintaining the lifestyle you've grown accustomed to is perhaps the important aspect of retirement planning for future retirees. 

To do this, you need both a strong plan and the ability to adjust as life unfolds.

Diversify Your Income Streams

Relying solely on Social Security might not be enough. Think about broadening your sources of income:

  • Life Insurance: This isn't just about leaving something behind for your loved ones. Some policies allow for withdrawals or loans, making them a potential supplemental income source during your golden years.
  • Rental Income: If you have property or can invest in real estate, rental income can be a steady cash flow. Just be ready for the responsibilities that come with being a landlord.
  • Annuities: These can provide a guaranteed income for life or a set number of years. There are various types, so research or consult a financial advisor to find the best fit for you.
  • Dividend Stocks: Stocks that pay dividends can provide an ongoing income stream. While there are risks associated with any stock market investment, dividends from established companies can be relatively stable.

The Withdrawal Strategy

It's essential to balance enjoying your retirement and ensuring you don't outlive your savings.

  • The 4% Rule: Historically, the S&P 500 has had an average annual return of around 10% before accounting for inflation. With this in mind, many experts recommend the 4% rule: take out 4% of your retirement savings every year. This can help make sure your money lasts as long as you do.
  • Adjust Based on Expenses: While the 4% rule is a good starting point, it's important to adjust based on your actual expenses and the performance of your investments. If you have a year where your investments do particularly well, or if you have fewer expenses, you might adjust your withdrawal rate accordingly.

Remember, the key to a comfortable retirement isn't just about how much you've saved; it's also about how you manage and distribute those savings in your post-working years. Working with a financial planner can help you craft a strategy tailored to your needs and goals.

10. Stay Educated, In the know, and Increase Your Knowledge

Entering retirement can feel like a minefield of complex financial decisions. With evolving tax codes, investment trends, and regulations around social security and retirement accounts, it's crucial to maintain strong financial literacy in your later years.

  • Make a habit of engaging with reliable financial information sources. 
  • Subscribe to newsletters from reputable publications. 
  • Attend seminars and events for retirees on relevant topics like estate planning and required minimum distributions. 
  • Build relationships with financial advisors who specialize in retirement planning. Their guidance can help you respond to changing markets and tax environments. With an expert helping manage your evolving portfolio and income streams, you avoid having to decipher complex issues on your own.
  • Incorporate technology like financial dashboard apps and investment tracking software. Access real-time data on your accounts for informed decision-making. Digital tools make it easier to monitor and understand your overall financial picture.

Financial literacy is an ongoing pursuit - not a one-time event. Commit to regular learning, be willing to ask questions, and stay open-minded. With knowledge and trusted guidance, you can relax and enjoy retirement, knowing your finances are protected.

11. Dream Big & Set Retirement Goals

The beauty of retirement lies in its limitless potential. It’s a blank canvas, waiting to be painted with the dreams and aspirations you've nurtured over the years.

Take a moment to picture your ideal retirement. Is it a serene countryside home or perhaps a beachfront condo? Maybe it's traveling the world or picking up a long-forgotten hobby. This vision is the compass for your retirement planning.

While dreaming is essential, tangible steps help actualize these dreams. Budget for travel, research courses for hobbies, and consider any other resources you might need for your envisioned projects.

12. Legacy & Estate Planning

As you settle into retirement, thoughts often shift towards the legacy you'll leave behind. Proper estate planning ensures your wishes are honored, and your loved ones are cared for.

  • Your Will: This foundational estate planning tool outlines how you'd like your assets distributed. It’s vital to regularly review and update your will, especially after significant life events like marriages, births, or deaths.
  • Beneficiaries: Financial accounts, like retirement funds and life insurance policies, allow you to designate beneficiaries. Ensure these are current. Remember, beneficiary designations supersede wills, so they need to be consistent with your overall wishes.
  • Trusts & Advanced Tools: Trusts offer a way to manage how and when assets are distributed. They can provide tax benefits and potentially shield assets from legal judgments. Depending on your estate's complexity, you might also consider tools like power of attorney, health care directives, or living wills.

Engage in open and honest discussions with your family about your plans. This ensures that they understand your wishes and the reasoning behind your decisions. Such conversations can also provide a clear path for your loved ones to follow when you pass.

Retirement is as much about living your dreams as it is about securing your legacy. With proper planning, not only can you enjoy your golden years to the fullest, but you can also ensure your legacy lives on just as you envision it.

13. Continuous Financial Planning

retirement planning with a consultant

Retirement might signal the end of a 9-to-5 grind, but it doesn't mean the end of financial vigilance.

Inflation, market fluctuations, and personal needs will continue to shift in retirement. These factors necessitate regular financial check-ins.

*Reminder: Financial planning doesn't end when retirement begins…

Plan regular financial reviews

Make it a ritual to sit down, either alone or with a financial advisor, to review your financial health. This not only keeps you abreast of your current status but allows for proactive adjustments, ensuring your funds last as long as possible.

Conclusion

Retirement is a milestone marking your years of hard work and dedication. As our guide underlines, the months leading up to this significant transition are pivotal. It's essential to lay down a solid financial foundation, set post-retirement goals, and ensure a lasting legacy. 

From understanding your Social Security benefits to setting a realistic budget and dreaming big, each step is integral to a smooth and fulfilling retirement journey. 

As you approach this new chapter, continuous financial and estate planning will secure your peace of mind and legacy.

Remember, retirement isn't just about stopping work; it's about starting a new adventure. Equip yourself with the right knowledge and resources. 

When you need tailored guidance, contact M Wealth Group. We're here to help you stride confidently into your retirement years. We offer a FREE retirement plan review - Get yours now!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the first thing to do before retiring?

Before diving into the specifics of retiring, the very first thing you should do is assess your financial health. Begin with a comprehensive review of your savings, investments, and other assets. Seek the advice of a financial planner to understand if you're on track to maintain your desired lifestyle post-retirement. This assessment will provide a clear picture of where you stand and what financial adjustments might be needed.

What not to do before retirement?

Avoid making large, impulsive purchases or investments without thoroughly considering their long-term impact on your savings. It's also important not to withdraw significant amounts from your retirement accounts prematurely, as this can lead to penalties and diminish the power of compound interest. Don’t avoid healthcare planning; understand what your medical expenses might look like in retirement and ensure you have a plan in place.

What is a good monthly retirement income?

A "good" monthly retirement income varies widely based on individual lifestyle preferences, health status, and where you live. However, a common rule of thumb is the 70-80% principle. It suggests that retirees will need 70-80% of their pre-retirement income to maintain their current standard of living. For instance, if you were earning $50,000 annually before retirement, you might aim for $35,000 to $40,000 per year in retirement. Consult a financial planner to determine what will work best for you.

What is the best month to retire in 2024?

Choosing the best month to retire in 2024 (or any year) depends on personal and financial factors. 

However, there are some considerations:

  • Financial reasons: Some people retire at the end of the calendar year in November or December to maximize annual bonuses, vacation payouts, and other end-of-year benefits. If you aim to start receiving Social Security benefits, consider how your retirement date affects your benefits.
  • Healthcare reasons: If your employer-provided health insurance ends when you retire, you might consider retiring closer to when you'll be eligible for Medicare to minimize the duration of coverage you must secure independently.
  • Personal preferences: Weather can be a factor. Some might choose to retire at the end of spring or the beginning of summer (typically April-July) to travel or enjoy outdoor activities immediately after retiring.

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M Wealth Group
M Wealth Group
Together, Martin and Chelsea use their professional expertise and life experiences to provide personalized financial strategies to help clients achieve their goals.
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