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Retirement Checklist: 10 Steps You Need to Take

By June 24, 2022News
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Did you know that 64% of Americans aren’t prepared for retirement? Even for those who have begun saving, many of them don’t have concrete plans — or don’t know how to get there in time. For most soon-to-be retirees, a major concern is making sure they have enough money on their desired date of retirement and that they can continue building wealth faster than they use it.

To help you accomplish your retirement goals, it’s important that you lay out a retirement checklist that hits on all the key points. 

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1. Define What Retirement Looks Like to You

Most people begin saving for retirement early in life, but what you wanted back then is probably far different from what you want now. In fact, your vision of retirement may have changed just over the past couple of years, which is why it’s important to regularly sit down and ask yourself: What do I want my retirement to look like?

Many retirees want to spend their free time traveling, but that doesn’t come cheap. Even if your goal is to buy a nice home and settle down, you need to have a certain amount of money to account for inflation and continue to cover basic expenses, like your food and health insurance. 

To help you going forward in this retirement checklist, go ahead and write down what you envision for these key aspects of your life to come:

  • Place of residence: Will you own or rent a home? Will you plan to transition into assisted care at some point? Will you be responsible for taking care of someone else, like a disabled child or spouse? 
  • Healthcare: Are you in good health? Do you have a health savings account? Do you anticipate needing live-in aids or additional care? What will your policy cover? 
  • Transportation: Are you planning to own a car? How long do you expect to be driving? What kind of transportation will you pay for when you aren’t driving? 
  • Travel: Do you intend to travel? Where and how often? Do you want to travel by cruise, plane, or car? How luxurious do you want your accommodations to be? 

While nothing is set in stone, writing out details like these will help you think about specific costs (i.e., mortgage, fuel, property taxes, etc.) going forward, which will give you the most accurate and realistic numbers for your retirement planning. 

2. Add Up All of Your Assets

If you’re thinking about retirement, you’ve probably checked in to your 401(k) and other retirement accounts to see how they’re doing, but what about non-traditional assets? Beyond your home, car, and available cash, it’s worth factoring in any skills or knowledge you have that could be turned into an income stream in retirement if you need it. 

For instance, many retirees like to stay busy or choose to continue working part-time to help supplement their retirement income. This often means taking something you enjoy, like a gardening hobby, and turning it into a small side gig. Writing, painting, restoration — just about any talent can be used to produce some income, at least enough to offset the cost of enjoying the hobby itself. 

As you add up all of your traditional investments, liquid assets, and potential money-makers, you’ll have a better idea of what your retirement could look like. 

3. Start Prioritizing Your Health

Healthcare costs represent one of the largest retirement expenses, which is why taking care of your health now should be a high priority on your retirement checklist. First off, evaluating your health and signing up for any long-term policies could save you money in the long run. Secondly, knowing about any potential health problems sooner means you have a better chance of staying healthy for longer.

Once you prioritize your health, you may discover additional hobbies or costs that you need to account for when planning your retirement. For instance, you might take up a gym membership or begin lessons for a leisure sport.

4. Think About When You’ll Start Collecting Social Security

If you’ve planned for retirement well, you won’t need to rely on your social security benefits to cover basic expenses, but for most of us, it’s a nice extra source of funds to keep us going during retirement. However, one of the biggest decisions retirees have to make is when they will start taking retirement benefits. Generally, the longer you can wait to take withdrawals, the better off you’ll be, so it’s an important aspect of your retirement checklist.

If you wait until the full retirement age to claim benefits, you and your spouse will get full retirement benefits. If you or your spouse claim benefits early, you’ll get between 71% and 99% of them. If you wait, you’ll be eligible for delayed retirement credits, which could get you extra money until you turn 70. 

The best time to start collecting social security benefits will depend on your age and circumstances, so you’ll want to speak with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or other financial advisors to help you figure out when these benefits work best in your retirement plan. 

5. Begin Networking to Find Retirement Opportunities

If you were convinced that retirement boils down to a big party, followed by around-the-clock relaxation, think again. For most retirees, finding fulfillment in retirement means maintaining a strong network of friends and acquaintances. If you start now, you’ll even discover some unique opportunities that can help you pursue your retirement dreams. 

For example, many retirees get involved with non-profits where they can put their unique talents to work making a difference in their community or for a cause they care about. These opportunities rarely just come knocking at your door, so using networking tools (including social networks) will help you secure these opportunities when you semi-retire or retire down the road. 

6. Decide How Much You Wish to Work During Retirement

For more and more retirees today, full-on retirement is an unappealing option. With that said, we all have a different definition of what it means to work. For some, working during retirement means being a part-time or full-time volunteer. For others, working means continuing to generate a steady income, either through a 9-to-5 job or a relaxed side gig. 

If you don’t have enough money to get through retirement without working, you will likely do some mixture of both. Sitting down with a team of financial advisors to discuss how far your retirement savings will get you in light of all the things you wish to enjoy can help open your eyes to what options you have during your retirement years. 

7. Create a Budget to Guide Your Retirement

If you’ve been following this retirement checklist, you have a pretty good idea of your assets, income, and all the areas where you might end up spending money as a retiree. Now it’s time to sit down and turn that information into a real budget that goes line-by-line through the various categories, like the cost of living, travel, and activities.

Your retirement budget is going to need adjustment, especially as your priorities change in the years to come. However, creating a realistic retirement budget that details all the little expenses to the best of your knowledge will help you set accurate goals and achieve your retirement dream. 

8. Find Ways to Offset Your Expenses

For most retirees, creating a budget that accounts for all the small things — like the cost of water, electricity, and fuel — is an eye-opening experience. Oftentimes, we forget how these small things can add up, and if you plan to enter retirement with debt (e.g., a mortgage or car payment), that budget can quickly eat away at your savings. 

While the reality of your retirement budget may be a bit discouraging at first, remember that knowing the numbers is the first step to improving them. With the information in front of you, you can offset your future expenses in two ways: Start saving more and find ways to cut them back. 

Saving more for retirement is a general goal most people have when they start thinking about a retirement checklist. The trouble is, a lot of soon-to-be-retirees don’t know where to start. If you are unsure how to maximize your dollars today to get you the most back in the future, it’s important that you sit down and talk with a professional.

The other side of the equation is trying to reduce your retirement expenditures as much as possible. If you look to cut out hobbies first, think again. What you might try to do instead is downsize your home, forgo a new car, or consider moving somewhere with a lower cost of living. Planning to cut down on your living expenses is usually the best option because, while hobbies come and go, housing represents expenses you will have to cover throughout retirement. 

9. Think About the Unexpected

While you should never enter retirement thinking about the worst things that can happen, it is important that you plan for some of the worst-case scenarios in advance of your retirement date. This could range from small problems, like a leaky roof, to a major illness that impacts you, your spouse, or someone who may become dependent on you, like a child.  

By thinking about the unexpected now as you complete your retirement checklist, you’ll be better prepared if things go wrong during retirement. For instance, setting aside some emergency savings that you won’t tap into unless one of your emergencies happens will give you peace of mind in retirement that your whole world won’t be turned upside down just because a big storm blows through. 

In addition to planning for the financial impact of these scenarios, you should also talk to your family about big decisions they may have to make for you one day. Laying out all of your healthcare desires isn’t always easy, but it will ultimately make a bad situation easier for both you and your family should a major decision ever be placed into their hands. 

10. Stay on Top of Your Retirement Plans

Whether you’re still a few years away from retirement or it’s just around the corner, it’s important that you partner with a retirement advisor you feel confident talking to as your plans change. Staying on top of your retirement checklist and goals, and changing your financial plans accordingly, will help you live out the dream retirement that you’ve been working for.

If you don’t already have a trusted retirement and financial planner on your side, reach out to Churchill Management Group today to learn more about the next steps you should take to prepare for an enjoyable retirement. Call us today to get started! 


What should I do six months before retirement?

Six months before retiring, you should meet with your advisor to discuss your health plan options, Medicare enrollment, and scheduling withdrawals to fund your retirement goals. 

What should you not do in retirement?

Depenind upon your financial situation, during retirement, you should avoid unplanned withdrawals and taking on large expenses. If your savings are not enough to cover all of your costs, you should plan to keep working part-time. 

What should I know before early retirement?

Before early retirement, you should plan out a complete budget to determine if you need to keep generating an income. You should also consider the cons of taking social security benefits early or foregoing delayed retirement incentives. 

*Financial Planning Services Disclosure

Financial Planning Services Disclosure; Churchill provides financial planning services to Clients that specifically engage Churchill for that service. The planning can include defining goals, designing a plan, assisting with implementing the plan, and evaluating and adjusting the plan over time, at the request of the client. The financial planning includes advice regarding securities investing and may include discussions of a client’s tax, insurance, employee benefits, estate planning, and other issues. Churchill, however, does not provide legal, insurance, employee benefit, estate planning, tax, or accounting advice, and the client must rely on legal, insurance, and accounting professionals for that advice and documentation.

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