Whether you're counting down to your retirement date, finalizing your plan to retire in a few years or already out of the workforce, it's normal to have questions about what your life will be like as a retiree.
Your retirement questions might relate to whether you've saved enough for a comfortable retirement or whether your social network could shrink without a circle of coworkers and colleagues. Maybe you're not sure what the best age to start receiving Social Security retirement benefits is, or you're wondering how to ensure a happy retirement for yourself.
You're not alone. Many older adults share these same concerns and questions, and you can rest assured that most people report having a positive outlook on life once they retire, according to a national survey from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, a nonprofit foundation. The survey found that 91% of retirees are generally happy, 91% enjoy close relationships with family and friends, and 90% are confident in their ability to manage their finances during retirement.
Getting answers to any retirement questions you might have is an important part of creating your retirement plan, so here are the answers to six of the most common retirement questions.
1. How Can I Know If I Have Saved Enough for Retirement?
In a 2020 Harris Poll study conducted on behalf of the Center for a Secure Retirement, more than half (54%) of working adults said that their retirement planning was hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic. In times of financial uncertainty and economic disruption, it can be difficult to determine whether your pre-COVID retirement plan can still provide a comfortable lifestyle during retirement.
One way to get a general idea of whether you will have enough income and savings for retirement is to tally your income, savings and anticipated investment returns with a retirement planning calculator. However, note that many individual factors can affect your retirement financial readiness, such as any debts you need to pay and the kind of retirement lifestyle you want to have. For a detailed understanding of how the particulars of your financial situation may influence your retirement plans, it can help to consult a retirement planning professional or financial advisor.
2. When Should I Begin Drawing Social Security Benefits?
A person becomes eligible to start receiving Social Security retirement benefits at age 62. However, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), when you sign up to receive these benefits at 62, your monthly benefit is reduced by up to 30% of what you would receive if you waited until your full retirement age, which is between 66 and 67 for most people.
For example, if your monthly benefit is $1,000 at age 66 and you start drawing Social Security at 62, that amount can drop to $750. If you were to wait until age 70 to start drawing Social Security benefits, that monthly benefit would increase to $1,320 in this example.
As you decide what age will be best for you to begin receiving Social Security benefits, consider your current and future expenses, whether you plan to work in retirement, and when your spouse will draw benefits. For more detailed guidance, see the SSA's When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits.
3. How Can I Stretch My Retirement Income?
If you want your retirement funds to go further, you could consider downsizing to a condo or a smaller house and then deposit or invest any extra proceeds from the sale. You might also choose to relocate to a region with a lower cost of living, such as a small town or a state with a more temperate climate.
You could also find smaller ways to reduce expenses, such as cooking more meals at home, shopping at discount grocers, traveling during off-peak seasons, and cutting back on cable or subscription streaming services. Even these small expenses can add up over time, so make sure to budget according to your needs.
4. What Steps Can I Take to Prepare for Health Care and Long-Term Care Costs?
We all hope for healthy retirement years, but illnesses or chronic health conditions can arise even for individuals who maintain healthy lifestyles. If you are unable to keep your employer's health plan and are under the age of 65, you will likely need to purchase health insurance, so make sure you factor any premiums into your retirement budget.
At age 65, you are eligible to sign up for Medicare, the federal health insurance program that covers many (but not all) health care costs. Many people purchase Medicare Supplement insurance (also known as Medigap) to fill the "gaps" in Medicare coverage, while others choose a more comprehensive Medicare Advantage insurance plan — both of which are sold by private insurance companies. However, these policies don't always cover the costs of dental care, hearing aids, eyeglasses or long-term care in assisted living or skilled nursing facilities.
Long-term care costs can easily add up, so you may want to consider purchasing a long-term care insurance policy to cover you and your spouse if you expect that these expenses will affect your retirement savings. If you don't already have long-term care insurance, you may be able to shop for a policy in your 50s and 60s before premiums shoot up at age 65.
5. How Can I Improve My Mental Health and Wellness During Retirement?
People who are happiest in retirement typically take part in a variety of activities, such as exercising, volunteer work or continuing education, according to the American Psychological Association. A major contributor to mental wellness in retirement is the ability to balance positive and negative emotions and focus on the positive aspects of your life, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Other steps you can take to achieve better emotional health during retirement include getting seven to eight hours of quality sleep nightly, strengthening social connections, and practicing meditation and mindfulness to calm your mind and body.
Mental wellness can also benefit your physical health, according to the NIH: "Research has found a link between an upbeat mental state and improved health, including lower blood pressure, reduced risk for heart disease, healthier weight, better blood sugar levels and longer life."
6. What Can I Do to Stay Healthy and Active in Retirement?
There's no shortage of ways to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle in retirement, and you will likely have more time to pursue new hobbies or build on hobbies you already enjoy.
Take time to think about what your interests are and what new activities you might want to take part in once you have more time to do so. For example, you could search online for fitness, yoga, Tai Chi or other exercise classes, or you could check out local walking, gardening, bird watching or hiking groups, which can also provide great social outlets.
Like many chapters in life, retirement can bring a degree of uncertainty, but asking questions and taking time to plan can help you create the wonderful future you envision for yourself. No matter which retirement questions are on your mind, there is an abundance of professionals and resources available to guide you toward a comfortable and fulfilling retirement.