Understanding the Basics

Six Months or Less from Retirement

Retirement is knocking at your door. It is countdown time. Now is the time to do some careful double-checking of all your plans and preparations.

  1. Determine if you'll be eligible for retiree medical and life insurance benefits; if you have a working spouse, don't forget to review his or her retiree benefits. If either of you is planning to retire early, determine what your insurance plans, and Medicare, will and will not cover. You may have to bridge the retirement insurance gap by purchasing additional coverage. See the section Bridging the Retirement Insurance Gap for more information.
  2. Complete a thorough inventory of all your assets. This includes your 401(k) plan, IRAs and other tax-deferred plans, personal savings, and investments. You should be able to get accurate retirement figures from your employer at this time. Don't forget to include non income-producing assets, such as your home, cars, rental or vacation property, jewelry, antiques, artwork, or miscellaneous items of value. It may be necessary to reposition your savings and investments. See the section Taking Inventory for more information.
  3. If eligible for Social Security, audit your personal Social Security record. A Social Security Statement is sent annually to all individuals age 25 or over who are not yet receiving Social Security benefits. Review your Social Security Statement to determine the monthly benefit you can expect to receive. If you have not received this statement, file Form SSA-7004, Request for Social Security Statement, with the Social Security Administration. Prepare to apply for Medicare. To learn how to do this and how to make the most of your Social Security benefits, see the section Your Social Security Benefits.
  4. Picture what your retirement will be like. If you are planning a second career, or you're considering moving to a different location, start exploring your possibilities now. To decide how much income you'll need, see the section Retirement Style Checklist as well as the Helpful Hints for Determining Retirement Expenses in Discovering Your Retirement Lifestyle.
  5. Plan to handle any shortfall in retirement income. This may mean turbo-charging your savings and investment strategy, selling a home, altering your lifestyle, or postponing retirement. See the section Fine-Tuning Your Investment Strategy and The Role of Your Home in Retirement for more information.
  6. Learn the different ways to access your pension and/or account balance from your company savings plans. Re-investment considerations are important here. See the section Selecting a Distribution Option for more information.
  7. Be aware of the tax issues involved when taking distributions from your retirement plans. See the section Taxation of Distribution Options for more information.
  8. If you're planning to sell your home, make sure you know what tax opportunities and pitfalls exist. See the section The Role of Your Home in Retirement for more information.
  9. Make estate planning a financial priority. Make sure you are taking advantage of tax planning strategies to minimize estate shrinkage and maximize transfer of assets to family members, heirs, or charitable organizations. See the section Estate Planning Considerations for more information.
  10. If you're less than six months from retirement, you'll need to take a number of important steps. See the section Countdown to Retirement for more information.
  11. See the section Putting It All Together for a pre-retirement checklist.
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