We get busy in life. Between raising a family, starting a career, buying a home and then eventually sending the kids to college, it’s not a big surprise that retirement planning takes a back seat.
Some people don’t even start thinking about retirement until they are in their 50s. That’s late. But still, you should never throw your hands up and give up on retirement planning. And even though I say it’s never too late to start, you may have to deal with some unfortunate realities.
The fact is that retirement can be overwhelming. There’s a lot to do and a lot to think about. Which is why even people who think they are well prepared for retirement might find that there are things for which they simply forgot to plan, or didn’t know they needed to plan.
Financial planners describe some of those things:
“There’s been a lot of times when people aren’t prepared emotionally to retire,” says Scott Thoma, at Edward Jones in St. Louis. “Your identity has been what you did. You stop working. You stop you career. The question is now, what will I do with my time? A lot of people go back to work because they weren’t ready mentally or emotionally for retirement.”
“You still have to enroll in Medicare at 65,” says John Piershale, a wealth adviser at Piershale Financial Group in Crystal Lake, Ill. “If you delay until 66, you have to take the initiative. It doesn’t happen automatically. If you are late, there is a 10 percent penalty for every 12 months you are late. If someone waits 24 months, there is a 20 percent penalty built in. It’s a permanent penalty, just because you forget to re-enroll. That is a big-time penalty.
“Enrollment is three months before your birthday to three months after your [65th] birthday,” he says. “A lot of people delay Social Security. If you delay Social Security, you have to actively enroll in Medicare on your own.”
“A lot of studies say health care will cost $250,000” for a couple in retirement, Thoma says. “That number is about $5,000 per year per person. You can’t predict the future, but you can plan for it.”
People may plan for but underestimate health-care costs in retirement, says Scott Moffitt, president of the Summit Financial Group in Loveland, Ohio.
“People forget prescription drug costs and long-term care are costs,” Moffitt says. “They can eat up a substantial amount of money if you are not careful. “
Ditto dental expenses, says John Gajkowski at Money Managers Financial Group in Oak Brook, Ill: “A lot of people have work done. Medicare doesn’t cover dental. They are having [dental] posts put in, and that can cost $10,000, $20,000, $30,000.”
“They forget to plan for major purchases, like home repair and upkeep,” Moffitt says. “Retirees tend to do a good job of covering monthly bills. What seems to be getting many retirees caught up is that occasional large purchase. The first piece of advice I give them is to look at your budget on an annual basis so you are making sure you take into account things that come up quarterly or semiannually.
“If they go into retirement with cars owned, put in the replacement cost,” he says. “Put in home upkeep.”
Life events, such as weddings, graduations and sometimes just spoiling the grandkids, can be major unanticipated costs, Gajkowski says.
“Planning for a long life is very important,” Thoma says. “For a 55-year-old couple, there is a 50 percent chance that one of them will live into their 90s. If you will live to 90, will your money last? Are there changing needs, like how your home was set up? Does your home have a lot of stairs? Do you want to downsize? There are a lot of considerations as you think about 25 years in retirement.”
Consider which streams of income are attached to one spouse that may go away when he or she dies, especially pensions, annuities and Social Security. “Do a ‘what if’ analysis,” Thoma says. “If one passes away, will the other be covered? Are there income streams that will stop? Think about long-term care. If one passes away, who will help the other?”
“A lot of people think estate plans are only for the wealthy,” Thoma says. “They say, ‘I don’t have a lot of money, so I don’t need an estate plan.’ If you are not proactive, all those decisions will be he handled by the state. Do you want to leave it in the hands of the state and the court?”
Make sure all your beneficiaries are correct and up to date. Also, make sure you have a financial power of attorney and health-care directive.
“How do you want your assets to be handled if you are no longer able to make those decisions?” Thoma says. “One thing we recommend is having a family meeting — with your family and your financial adviser. What are your wishes? Make sure family understand your desires.”