By Anne Tergesen
When it comes to preparing for retirement, most people focus on a single, key question: Have I saved enough? But, as the recent Wall Street Journal article “Ready to Retire? Here’s a Five-Year Pre-Retirement Plan” points out, there are plenty of other things today’s pre-retiree needs to consider—from lifestyle issues to Medicare.
The article presents a check list of things to do and think about in the five years before retirement. The suggestions vary widely – from “start thinking about how you and your spouse wish to spend time in retirement” to “figure out the optimal time to take your Social Security.”
Several readers emailed with additional suggestions that bear repeating:
1) Pay off your mortgage—and eliminate other debt as well.
2) Be sure the beneficiary designation forms on your Individual Retirement Accounts, 401(k) accounts, insurance policies, and other holdings are up to date.
3) Find a primary care physician before you turn 65 and make sure that doctor takes Medicare.
Others had questions:
Q: How can I pick a financial adviser?
A: These days, people are concerned with hiring an independent financial adviser, who will put your interests first. But the world of independent financial advisers is diverse—encompassing everyone from the solo practitioner to firms that manage millions. To further complicate matters, while more advisers are hanging out their own shingles, a growing number are simultaneously affiliating with independent brokerages, such as LPL Financial and Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Moreover, while most independents call themselves “advisers,” they aren’t all required to adhere to the same fiduciary standards. As a result, the degree to which each must put a client’s interests before his or her own can vary. Here’s a link to an article that can help you navigate these options.
Q: I’m 64 and plan to stay employed for a while. Since I have medical insurance through my employer, do I need to sign up for Medicare?
A: Some workers postpone enrolling in Medicare because their health coverage on the job can be less expensive. But it’s important to do some homework before deciding to stick with an employer’s plan. Those who are employed can switch at any time from a group health plan to Medicare. But once an employee stops working—voluntarily or not—he or she has only eight months to sign up for Medicare Part B. Those who miss this window—called a special enrollment period—must wait for Medicare’s general enrollment period, from Jan. 1 to March 31, to sign up. Worse, their Part B benefits won’t go into effect until the following July, and late-enrollment penalties may apply. Here’s an article on Medicare enrollment problems those who stick with employer health plans can encounter.