Whether your retirement is fast approaching or decades away, it is likely that you do not spend much time pondering what will happen when you stop working.
Unfortunately, many people are unable to retire when they’d like to because of financial limitations. Many retirees die early because of not being mentally prepared and because of depression.
With careful planning, you can avoid this predicament.
Planning for retirement allows you to decide when and how to retire, and whether you will continue to work. Even if you have not started planning, start any time.
At retirement, you will not have office power while influence will reduce. Cash flow will also drop.
Start saving more for retirement; many people don’t start thinking about this day until early 50s. By then, they shall have missed the opportunity to let their savings grow over time.
You may not make much money during your early working years, making saving appear as challenging.
Do not bank on children’s support for retirement security. It can be a big risk. Be ready to take care of yourself; they will not be able to help you that much. You will also lose dignity and respect when begging.
When you go for a 30-day annual leave, whatever you do should mirror what you will be doing after work. If all you do is sleep or watch TV, that is what you are likely do in life after employment.
In the book of Proverbs, we are warned that a little sleep and a little slumber will invite poverty to attack you like bandits.
Watching your Naija and Big Brother movies will not save you the heartache in retirement. Learn a skill during your leave, it will come in handy; spend your after-office hours and weekends learning something. Do not spend it sleeping, gossiping or watching TV. Those aren’t productive.
Train early for a new career if you are interested in working after retirement. Training early prepares you to find a job in that field in retirement.
Focus on career since that may be your greatest asset. Finding work that is enjoyable might be the perfect step. You might find that you want to stay working longer if you enjoy what you’re doing, and there are benefits.
Look for ways you can earn extra money through hobbies and skills.
Trim debt. It goes without saying that you don’t want to head into retirement dragging a boatload of debt along with you.
Credit cards certainly factor in here, but your largest, most cumbersome debt is probably the mortgage.
Focus on paying off debt, that’s another monthly bill you won’t have to worry about after retirement.
Avoid taking on new debt at this point since ability to repay may decline without a full-time job. Similarly, avoid tapping into home equity unless absolutely necessary.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to plan for a longer retirement if you’re determined to stop working in your 50s. You’ll need enough funds to last you 35 to 40 years rather than 20 to 30; so, save a lot more.
Invest and save rather than speculating on retirement money. Build a portfolio that’s appropriate for your goals and don’t rely on ‘investment experts’ who make unrealistic promises.
And, remember there’s no such thing as free lunch or a perfect investment.
Nothing offers absolute safety with no risk. Even the so-called safe investments can’t ensure that your rate of return won’t be less than inflation and that you won’t lose purchasing power over time.
The best option is to create a mix of investments with different levels of risk.
Reduce your monthly expenses to a smaller, less expensive home. If you can use your larger home for a significant down payment on a new one, you can reduce monthly mortgage payments.
A smaller home will guarantee savings on utility bills, insurance premiums, property taxes, and maintenance.
The fastest way to save more is to spend less. Get that right. Trimming your lifestyle to one that costs a little less will allow saving more and it will cost less to maintain a standard of living in retirement.
One way of controlling spending is by completing a retirement budget worksheet, allowing you a close look at healthcare costs in retirement before you make any permanent plans.
Downsize your home after the children have left to be on their own. You will no longer have use for extra bedrooms.
While you may find comfort in maintaining the home you’ve known for years, this choice can take a severe toll on finances and health.
By downsizing your home, you free up a lot and can save.
In addition, as you grow older, your larger family home may need to be retrofitted for someone with limited mobility. This takes time and money, and can make it more difficult to sell the home. Nonetheless, if you have to renovate the home to make it easier to navigate, you likely will not recoup this investment when selling.
Look for a smaller home that requires less upkeep and is easy to navigate. This might include buying a single level home or a home with easy-to-reach counters and electrical outlets. Relocating doesn’t get any easier with age. If anything, it becomes more difficult.
As with many other things in life, the sooner you get started, the better off you’ll be. But even if you’re already close to retirement, knowing your options and making informed decisions based on your personal finances and goals will pay off in the long run.
Invest the money that’s in your retirement portfolio based on your age, your risk tolerance, and your income goals.
As a general rule of the thumb, 110 minus your age is the amount of money you should keep in equities (stocks), with the rest in bonds and cash equivalents.
If you’re 30, for example, keep 80 percent of your portfolio in stocks, with the rest in bonds and cash, and rebalance yearly.
The more often you look at your finances, the more likely you are to make progress.
Consider working your way through a retirement planning checklist.
After you’ve gotten all the way through the list, begin conducting annual or even semi-annual reviews. Start at the top and work your way back down again, updating as you go along.
The writer is a managing partner at Watermark Consultants in Kenya.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.