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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Preparing for Retirement

Experts give advice on preparing financially and emotionally for the retirement years.

Improving Your Financial Outlook

To improve your financial portfolio, the experts advise the following actions:

  • Consult with a financial planner. To get unbiased advice, pay a flat fee for a visit, recommends Jack Vanderhei, research director of the fellows program for the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). In free financial planning sessions, the consultants have the burden of trying to sell you something.
  • Do a self-audit of finances every year. Starting at around age 30, Hushbeck says it's a good idea to take a few hours every year to assess your financial situation. Think of where you are financially, where you want to be, and how much you expect to have and spend during retirement. This may sound like an unpleasant task, in the category of "eat your spinach," says Hushbeck, but it's a worthy action that can put you on the road to financial security.
  • Take advantage of trusted resources. In addition to staying abreast of current events regarding Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, read informational brochures published by government and nonprofit agencies. Educate yourself at retirement workshops sponsored by your employer, unions, credit unions, churches, nonprofit groups, or government organizations. Also take advantage of tools such as retirement calculators that can be found online.
  • Think positive. Your attitude can help determine your path in life, including your financial situation, says Robert Hotes, PhD, a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), noting that even the stock market is vulnerable to the outlook of investors. "Take a look at the assumptions you make and what you tell yourself," he explains. For example, if it turns out your pension and Social Security benefits will not cover your retirement, think of taking on a part-time job in retail as an opportunity to fulfill a long-held desire to pursue a career in sales.

Have a Good Retirement Plan

To complicate retirement planning, traditional pension plans that once helped fill retirement reserves are now on the decline. More companies used to offer defined benefit plans, which would give workers a certain percentage of their preretirement income upon retirement, depending on their salary and length of service.

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