Phased Retirement: Simple Questions?

The whole notion of retirement should be simple.  You work for many years, you live your life and hopefully save some money along the way.  Then you choose a time to step away from full-time work using your savings and retirement benefits (like Social Security) for living expenses. It seems like there could be a formula that tells you when it’s time to call it a career.

But don’t assume because you’ve given some thought to your retirement that you have all the answers.  Behind some seemingly ‘simple’ questions are even more questions, and your answers can get complex rather quickly.

For example, considering the question of “When should I retire?” comes with a whole cascading set of more detailed questions behind it, all of them unique to your situation – your age, your health, your finances, etc.

Here are a few “simple” questions for you to consider:

When should I retire?  Earlier will mean that you’ll have less time to accumulate savings, and potentially additional time for the need to purchase private healthcare.  But you’ll also likely have better health for activities and travel that you may want to pursue in your retirement.  This is where a good financial planner can create a flexible roadmap that will allow you to look at scenarios for different timeframes.

Where will I live in retirement?  Is your house paid for? Could you save significantly on an annual basis if you were to downsize?  How much home maintenance do you want to do in retirement?  If you move to another state the tax implications are important, but so is understanding the disruption to your support system of family and friends nearby.

Will I work in retirement?  This is one of those questions that cascades into many aspects.  Working part time could impact when you retire – it may allow you to retire earlier by providing income so you don’t tap your savings. And though it might provide you with active social engagement, the time commitment may keep you from other interests like travel.

How can I stay healthy and sharp in retirement? The ‘simple’ answer is to stay active and try new things!  But of course, this also depends on your interests and abilities.  There are so many ways to stay active and engaged in both body and mind. The simplest way to start is to get outdoors and walk.

Your retirement will be unique to your situation and ideas.  But it’s important to ask some of these questions early, because you may find that the answers are not-so-simple.

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