Planning Ahead Improves Peace of Mind in Retirement

~Jennifer Christensen

As we imagine our future in retirement, our thoughts turn dreams of a stress-free life. Proper planning now can make that dream a reality.

Getting started

If you are moving from home after many years, it can be a daunting task. Making lists and tagging items is a good first step. Give yourself time to sort family treasures and decide on what furnishings will work in a new, possibly smaller space. Categorize items to keep, pass along, sell, donate, or toss in the rubbish bin. Be resolute in your commitment to get rid of what no longer serves you. A professional organizer, or objective friend can help you stay focused and moving forward toward your goal.

Aging in place

Many people decide to stay at home during retirement. It’s a good idea to look around and envision possible safety hazards when you have any mobility issues. If you need extra help with your daily activities and don’t want to rely too heavily on family members, there are local agencies that can assist with driving, shopping and preparing meals. A certified home health aide from a reputable agency, specially trained to care for older people, will help keep you safe and gives everyone peace of mind.

Organize those papers

No matter where you live in retirement, an important step in getting your proverbial house in order is gathering all of your important documents in one place and making a list that you can share or put away for safe keeping. This list could include:

  • Will
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage license
  • Property deed(s)
  • Mortgage/loan documents
  • Vehicle titles
  • Bank account numbers (and passwords)
  • Investment and retirement account information
  • Insurance policies
  • Appraisals of jewelry/antiques

Build your Team

Just as you want to have good healthcare team, it is equally important to have access to legal and financial professionals who can help you navigate the next phase of life. These professionals can make a big difference when it comes to advising you when to make financial gifts to family members and how to navigate the new tax regulations and reduce your tax burden. Personal referrals are a great way to identify providers who are experienced in retirement planning and share your sensibilities. It’s completely appropriate to schedule a preliminary meeting to make sure the person is a good fit for you.

Plan your gifts to charity

If you are philanthropically minded, there are many ways in which you can make tax-deductible gifts to charities of your choice. We are all familiar with gifts that are payable upon your death. Other ways include Charitable Gift Annuities or Trusts – these do not go through the probate process, so distribution happens more quickly.

Protect Yourself

Older people are often at risk for telephone or internet scams. Be sure to back up your computer (especially those precious family photos), keep your passwords in a separate location and make necessary software updates when prompted. Never give your personal information like social security number or bank account information over the phone. If something you hear or see makes you uneasy, listen to your instincts!

Complete Those Advanced Directives

Advance directives are a set of simple legal documents that allow you to define who will make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Part of this is your “Living Will” which guides your family and healthcare team through what medical treatments you want (or don’t want). The other part is a “Healthcare Proxy” that allows you to select a person you trust to make decisions about your medical care if you are temporarily (or permanently) unable to.

You can save a great deal of stress on yourself and your loved ones by getting organized, becoming informed and being explicit about your wishes before the need arises. That way, you’ll have much more fun as you tick off those exotic trips on your bucket list!

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