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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Think you’re prepared for retirement? Answer these 6 questions.

In this Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 photo, graphic designer Tom Sadowski, 65, who delayed his retirement, works from home in Sterling, Va. Older Americans appear to have accepted the reality of a retirement that comes later in life and no longer represents a complete exit from the workforce. Some 82 percent say it is at least somewhat likely they will work for pay in retirement, a poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP)
By Rodney Brooks Washington Post

Many Baby Boomers are not prepared for retirement, so they need to get much more savvy about their financial lives, and quickly “if they’re going to have some peace of mind and security during retirement,” says Carla Dearing, CEO of SUM180, an online financial planning service. To make sure you are ready, she suggests you answer these six questions.

1. Have you explored downsizing your living expenses? Your living expenses in retirement will likely be between 80 to 100 percent of your pre-retirement living expenses. By gradually downsizing your spending, you can significantly cut your monthly expenses without feeling the shock of adjustment. Look closer at your monthly expenses and identify items you can do without. Eliminate a few at a time.

2. Do you have a clear end game? You may have a good general sense of how much money you need to retire, but you aren’t truly ready to retire until you understand what that means in day-to-day terms. Compare your “retirement number” to your anticipated monthly expenses and make adjustments as needed. You should have an up-to-date and comprehensive financial plan that gives you a clear picture of your financial situation and specific action steps to address any adjustments that need to be made prior to retirement.

3. Where are you on your debts? You should understand what you owe and how much longer you need to work to get your debts cleared up.

4. Have you “right sized” your mortgage? You don’t need to pay off your mortgage necessarily, but need to make sure your mortgage payments are at a level you can afford in retirement. Downsizing your home can also be a real opportunity in retirement to cut your living expenses considerably.

5. Have you considered the different types of income sources available to you in retirement? There are many different ways to patch together the right assets and investments to provide for your retirement. Even if your investment portfolio is not large enough to support your retirement needs, you may find that you have other assets (a business, or real estate) that can contribute.

6. How would continuing to work at your peak earning years impact your quality of life in retirement? Even one or two extra years of work during your peak earning years could significantly affect your quality of life in retirement.