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Are you ready for retirement?

October 15, 2012

In June, AARP—the 37-million-member nonprofit organization for people over 50—updated its 10 Steps to Get You Ready for Retirement. To sum up:

1. Define your retirement.


Write down your objectives for retirement—not your budget—and start with the most important goals. Be specific: instead of “travel, “ list “trips to the lake “ or “walking tours of foreign countries. “ Set your top five goals, eliminate unnecessary expenses and make sure financial needs are met. It's OK if goals are still vague. Start by outlining how you envision enjoying retirement.

2. Take stock of your “assets. “

You know your income and value of bank and retirement accounts. What about nontraditional assets that could help fund retirement? Maybe you collect antiques or have a novel you want to finish. Hobbies and skills can become retirement income, such as trading antiques or teaching piano. List your passions and untraditional assets and start thinking about how you can turn them into money-making endeavors.

3. Evaluate your health—now.

Schedule checkups and preventive exams, including your annual physical and teeth cleaning. Work with your health provider to improve your health, and commit to eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep. Stay mentally sharp with brain games, puzzles and books. Keep in close contact with family and friends: it'll help maintain your health and fight off the blues that may arise once you're retired.

4. Determine when to collect social security.

When you start collecting social security will impact how much you'll get in monthly benefits; the longer you wait, the greater the benefit. AARP's Social Security Benefits Calculator will show you when it's best to claim.

5. Network through social media and other methods.

Include a networking strategy in your plan: maybe an hour a day on Twitter or LinkedIn “conversing “ with people who share your interests, or starting a morning meetup group with other soon-to-be retirees. Be prepared to answer: “How can you use your talents and experience to contribute part time to an organization or cause? “ The more socially active you are, the more opportunities you create for yourself.

6. Decide how much you want (or need) to work.

Unless you are financially set for life, you will have to stretch limited money and give up some retirement dreams or keep working in some capacity to pay for those dreams. Take into consideration how much work is necessary. To ensure you successfully reach your goals, decide how much time you want (or need) to spend at a job.

7. Create a retirement budget.

AARP's Retirement Calculator can help. Start by tracking your income and expenses for a couple of months then figure out how much you'll need to support your lifestyle. Do a financial checkup of your investments. Diversify your money in multiple investments, invest in things you understand and go with those that won't cost a lot in fees. Make sure your budget includes monthly payments to eliminate debt.

8. Find new ways to cut your expenses (start saving more).

Now is the time to find new ways to cut expenses. List your bills and figure out ways to trim them. Maybe you don't need 100 cable channels or to eat out three nights a week. And don't ignore debt as a way to save: cutting debt now will mean less worry when you retire. A strategy that works for many is to pay off the smallest debts first regardless of interest rate, which empowers you to go after bigger debts.

9. Prepare for the unexpected.

Do it now and you won't get caught off guard. Take time to consider how you'd pay for minor issues like a roof leak or serious ones like a grave illness. Discuss it with your family or those closest to you then take stock of your protection. Make sure you have enough homeowner's insurance and that your health insurance or long-term care insurance is adequate. Put money aside for the unexpected.

10. Stick to your plan (the AARP community can help).

Join the AARP online community to connect with others going through the same life changes. There's a wealth of information, ideas and tips, and it's a source of comfort and strength. For more, visit