You've finally made it to retirement age! Congratulations! Now it's time to take a few smart financial steps so you can relax and enjoy your new-found freedom!
Your financial checklist of things to do when you retire
Those early days after retirement can be much more complicated than you might have thought. You had the impression that the day you handed back the keys to the office would be filled with carefree exhilaration, but it's crucial to have a financial plan to make sure your later years are going to be as enjoyable as you always wished them to be.
Of course, you deserve to celebrate a little. Perhaps throw a party for family and friends and go away for a week or two's vacation to do whatever you want.
But when you've finished with all that, here are a few things you need to do, if you didn't do them already before your last day at work.
Check your pension and make sure you have all your documents in order
Your steady paychecks have finished so your main source of income is going to be your pension payment every month. Make sure you know exactly how much you're going to receive every month because that's all there is and that you have all those important documents well organised. Any lump sums you've received on retiring should be stashed away and invested and not just thrown into the current account because they have a tendency to disappear more quickly than you can imagine! More about how to invest this money later on.
Find out about all those freebies and discounts
Depending on which country you live in, there may be loads of free things or discounts you can take advantage of. These may include public transport, cinema tickets, restaurant meals, museum entrance fees etc etc. Always ask before you pay anywhere and always have your ID with you so you can prove your age. Find out about certain days and times when these discounts apply and make the most of them!
Check your tax situation
In most countries, pensions are taxable income. Talk to a good tax advisor and understand how much tax you're going to have to pay so you don't get a nasty surprise at the end of the tax year.
Check your health insurance and social security coverage
This is, unfortunately, going to become increasingly important as you get older. If you have a good public health system in your country this might be enough, but if you need private health insurance get a good deal now while you're still healthy and don't wait until you have problems when it'll cost you a lot more.
Hopefully, you've paid your mortgage off a long time ago, but if you still have a mortgage to pay every month, there's a temptation to pay it all off when you retire. However, mortgages are generally the cheapest loan you have and the interest you pay is probably deductible against your pension income, so it might be an idea to keep your mortgage going to reduce your taxes. Check all this out with your tax advisor before doing anything rash.
Make a budget
If you've received a lump sum, it's easy to think you're suddenly rich but that money is going to have to last you (hopefully) a long time. Make a budget based on your regular monthly pension income and even try to save a bit out of that every month so you can afford a few vacations from time to time. Don't use your savings for your monthly expenses. Bear in mind that now you have more time on your hands you might find that your monthly expenditure goes up instead of down. It's easy to get into a routine of going out more, eating out more and just generally spending more so make a budget and stick to it.
This is a much talked-about subject. Some people swear by investing in low-risk bonds which might pay about 3-4% a year before tax, or in dividend-oriented shares which might pay about the same. Other people say that, just because you've retired, it doesn't mean you shouldn't invest in growth shares which might not pay a dividend but which might go up nicely. After all, most people's retirement horizon could be 20-30 years or more. This is a personal decision but it might be an idea to have a blend of investments. It can also be an idea to have a rental property although as you get older you might not have the energy or appetite for all the management that this entails.
Don't give large amounts of money to your children
If you're in your sixties, the chances are that your children are going through the most stressful part of their lives. They probably have a large mortgage, young children, their careers are just getting started and they're probably short of money. You may be sitting on a tidy amount of money in the bank and there's a big temptation to be generous. They might even ask you for money. Be very careful in this respect because when you get short are they really going to help you out? The biggest favour you can do them is to be financially independent yourself so you won't rely on them in the future.
Make your home retirement-friendly
Think ahead and consider down-sizing to save on your monthly expenses. Perhaps move to a house with fewer stairs or to an area where you don't need a car. There's no obligation to keep running the large family home for the few occasions when everyone comes to stay and where you're still storing your children's junk that's been in the attic for the last 20 years. If you're going to travel more, it's probably better to live in an apartment which will be more secure while you're away and the costs will be lower and more predictable every month.
Start a small business
If you're in good health, there's no reason you can't start your own small business. This could be good fun, it'll keep you busy and it'll bring in some extra income which will always be useful.