However you envision retirement—seashores and tennis, trips to visit grandkids, continued work, or all of the above—you won't get there without some serious thought and effort. Retirement is not an event, but a long process. So is the planning needed to prepare for it. However, according to research by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, there are 15 tasks that, if done, are likely to put you in the fast lane when you do get on your retirement track.
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One of the key problems with retirement planning is that people don't know where to start, says John Migliaccio, director of research for the Institute. "With these 15 tasks they've got something specific, so if you start anywhere within this list, you're making progress."
"As people get older and closer to retirement, they do tend to accomplish many of these things," he says. Doing so "gives you more control over your own retirement." Moreover, Migliaccio says, research spanning nearly 20 years has shown remarkable consistency in how well people carry out these tasks, and the ages at which they do so. The deep recession and continuing financial setbacks have not changed the research findings.
The 15 retirement-readiness tasks identified by MetLife are broken into five categories:
1. Decide whether to fully retire, or to work part-time in retirement.
2. Formulate ideas about how much you'd like to work in retirement.
3. Determine which skills could be easily transferred to a new part-time job.
4. Explore what employment possibilities are available if you want to keep working full- or part-time in retirement.
5. Look into alternate career or part-time work opportunities in retirement.
Leisure & Activity
6. Determine the proper balance between work and leisure if forced to choose.
7. Identify personal goals in retirement.
8. Consider the importance of relationships with co-workers when making a decision to retire.
9. Consider how the various aspects of retirement might positively or negatively affect relationships with family and friends.
Income & Benefits
10. Determine the steps necessary to receive company, government, or other benefits in retirement.
11. Evaluate how changes in the economy will affect your pension, investments, and retirement benefits.
12. Assess whether full-time retirement will be financially feasible.
13. Determine the factors that are critical to maintaining a satisfying retirement.
14. Develop an alternative plan that could get you through a considerable and unexpected setback in retirement.
15. Evaluate whether your retirement plans meet the demands of personal, social, and financial changes.
Migliaccio says there's no weighting of the tasks. You need to do them all. "The most important tasks are the ones you haven't done" yet, he jokes. However, among equals, he says that when people decide to find out the details of their benefits (Task #10), they have crossed the threshold into serious retirement planning. "Once they get that in order, they're ready to go forward," he says.
People who say they feel prepared for retirement had, on average, completed nine of the 15 tasks. People who did not feel ready had done only three of the things on the list. Overall, about half of the people polled by the Institute said they felt prepared for retirement, and half said they did not feel retirement-ready.