Retirement Checklists: Goals for Every Stage of Your Financial Life

A happy and comfortable retirement is the #1 goal in financial planning. You only get one shot at retirement and the ZRC team has worked with hundreds of people planning for retirement over the years.  We complied a checklist to set goals and note milestones at every stage as you work towards a “work is optional” lifestyle.
Assuming you are going to retire at age 65:
40 Years to Retirement (age 25)

  • Begin your career.
  • Max-out your 401K contributions.
  • Pay attention to your expenses and spend less than you earn.
  • Establish an emergency fund.
  • Target saving 20% of your income.
  • Aggressively pay off debt (these include credit cards, student loans, car loans, etc).

30 Years to Retirement (age 35)

  • Have saved at least 1x your current salary.
  • Assess your earning potential. Would more education help?
  • Have you changed jobs? Consolidate retirement accounts where possible.
  • Your asset allocation should be appropriate for your age.
  • Automate savings where possible (for retirement, home, college, travel, etc.).

20 Years to Retirement (age 45)

  • College savings for any kids – balance saving for college with your own retirement needs.
  • Depending on how much you’ve saved thus far, you may need to increase your retirement savings or be able to reduce that amount. A target amount is 3x your current salary.
  • Are you taking good care of yourself? Having money saved for retirement is important but good eating and exercise habits are important for quality of life as you age.
  • Assess your spending and lifestyle. Lifestyle creep and trying to “keep up with the Joneses” can affect your financial security down the road
  • Run a retirement analysis based on your expenses, assets and how much you’re saving.

10 Years to Retirement (age 55)

  • If married begin to have conversations with your spouse about what you both envision retirement to look like
  • Review your asset allocation and adjust as appropriate.
  • Make catch-up contributions to your employer-sponsored plan or IRA, if you can.
  • A retirement savings target for age 55 is 5x your current salary.
  • You should be quickly paying down what debt you have (mortgage). Consider how much equity you have in your home and where your ideal place to “retire” might be.
  • Review your retirement analysis. Are you on track?
  • Look into taking out a Long-Term care insurance policy. This may seem early, but with inflation rates and health risk increases, it is better to start earlier than later.

5 Years to Retirement (age 60)

  • Review your asset allocation and adjust as appropriate. Understand what your expenses in retirement might be, what income sources you’ll have, and how much you should have in fixed income (such as bonds or bond funds).
  • If you plan on retiring in the next 10 years, review your options for taking social security. When you take social security can have a big impact on your benefit over time.
  • Review your retirement savings. Are you on track?
  • What lifestyle do you want in retirement? Will you travel? Will you relocate? Consider your hobbies, your community and your family.
  • Are you planning on moving to a different state? Remember to factor state and local taxes to help further planning.
  • Stick your toe in new activities and organizations to see what you like. You may find there’s a limit to how much golf, hiking, reading, gardening, or time with your grandchildren you enjoy.
  • Determine how you’ll handle healthcare costs in retirement. There are various options for Medicare as well as long-term care insurance to consider.
  • Evaluate your taxes. Often times, retirees underestimate the amount of taxes they will pay. This may save some surprises in the future.

1 Year to Retirement (64)

  • Sign up for Medicare three months before your 65th
  • Contact your employer’s benefits office to begin the necessary paperwork for any retirement benefits
  • Assess the best time to take Social Security. If you’re in good health and can live off your portfolio, waiting can be beneficial.
  • If you’re waiting to take social security when you’re 70, is there an opportunity for Roth conversions to save on taxes long term?
  • Assess your retirement savings. A good rule of thumb is that you can pull out 4% of your funds yearly and have a good chance of retaining your principal.
  • If you don’t have enough to comfortably retire, consider working part-time.
  • If you have more than enough, what will you do with it? More vacations? Pass it on to heirs? Charitable giving to your favorite causes?
  • Review your asset allocation and adjust as appropriate.
  • Make sure your estate plan is current (including your Will, Power of Attorney, and Advance Medical Directive).

Retirement (65)

  • Begin the next chapter of your life.