The baby boom generation (born from 1946 to 1964) is now entering retirement years, and the earliest members of this group are well into retirement, continuation of their careers in different ways, or encore careers. When this group was born, it began a boom in building housing. When they went to school, there was a boom in school construction; and so on. Now, there is a new set of needs, and decisions to be made. This is a complicated process, but you can’t turn your back on it. I’ve been through this decision process with a number of clients and colleagues, and here are some important topics to consider:
Social Security and Medicare. For many years, we have paid into these programs, and now we are starting to withdraw from them. There are complex rules for both of these programs, and the decisions made as to when and how to receive benefits can have a significant effect on the quality of retirement. Each has an extensive website explaining benefit choices, and you can also call and email them. Some people can sort through the options and make an informed choice, but many people would benefit from getting professional guidance on Social Security and Medicare benefits. You can’t simply do what family and friends have done; situations differ. Money spent on professional guidance will be well spent.
Investments. The baby boom generation surely has more money to manage than any prior generation. This is in part due to the decline in pension plans, which offered a monthly check and involved no investment decisions by participants. These plans have been replaced by defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans, which offer a lump sum account. When money was being contributed, plan participants usually had a choice of investment vehicles chosen by others. But in retirement, individuals often have to make their own decisions. It seems odd to think that a lawyer, teacher, doctor, business owner or anyone other than an investment professional should be able to exercise investment responsibility over large retirement sums. For most people, getting advice from an investment professional probably makes sense, and repays the cost of such advice in better investment returns. Of course, there are various types of investment professionals. We are old enough to recognize that phrases like “double your money” and “you can’t lose” are reasons to exercise caution. The challenge for investment professionals is to find a way to help those with more modest retirement accounts. Someone with a retirement account of $100,000 to $500,000 might need more careful advice than someone with millions. The professionals who can find an efficient way to help such people will be performing a valuable service.
Health. It’s no surprise that those who have good health have a better retirement experience. Some aspects of health can’t be controlled, but others can. Each year, I receive an email from Medicare on my birthday, telling me what testing I may obtain. Very helpful. Have regular checkups with your primary care physician as well as those who care for eyes, teeth and other parts that might wear out. Be an intelligent user of medical services to which you are entitled.Diet and exercise are also important. Following just a few suggestions about your health will be as valuable as any investment or other financial choice you make. Here’s a tip: many health insurance plans offer a free gym membership through the Silver Sneakers program. If your plan does, use it.
Your lifestyle. Where will you live in retirement, and in what kind of community? What are your goals or interests in retirement: travel, education, family, encore careers? Whatever you want to do, you need to start planning it. Eventually, most of us will have limits on our activities, so it’s a good idea to work on your bucket list early in your retirement years. There are now many television channels pitched to retirees-they usually include reruns of shows for the 50s and 60s, and commercials for medical devices. It doesn’t hurt to watch them from time to time, but don’t make your retirement goal watching episodes of the Andy Griffith Show. Look forward, not back.