If you think you are ready to retire, you may want to use this scorecard to help assess your family’s financial situation. By taking just five minutes you can quickly gauge whether or not you’re ready to hang up your cleats.
Congratulations on a long and successful career. It sounds like you may be ready to retire. Let’s take a few minutes to look at your financial picture to make sure you’re good and ready.
: One key for a happy retirement is to have a mortgage and rent-free place to live. If your home is completely paid off, you’re in good shape for retirement. If you own a home with lots of equity, but that is not paid off, talk to a financial advisor about using some of your savings to pay off the mortgage — providing you with a guaranteed return on your investment that beats any other investment with a bona fide guaranteed return. You may also want to consider selling your home and using the proceeds to buy a smaller home or condo where you and your spouse can live. If you have little or no home equity or don’t own a home, you’ll need much more savings and may want to consider buying a place to stretch your retirement.
Credit Card Debt
Going into retirement, you should have no credit card debt. If you have credit card debt that you can’t pay off with your savings, you aren’t ready for retirement financially.
: Optimally, you should have ten to fifteen times your earned income in your retirement savings. That, combined with Social Security, should provide you with a secure retirement. If your savings, after paying off the mortgage, is meaningfully less than tenfold your income you should seek advice from a financial planner regarding your preparation. If you have modest savings and are hoping to live on social security, you should probably consider working longer (unless you’re already well past age 70). By delaying retirement, your social security benefit rises, making it easier for you to retire later. Furthermore, you may be able to save a bit toward retirement. Retiring on just social security is more feasible if you own a home that is paid off.
: Let’s presume that you have no more college funding obligations to your children. If you have any money left in your college savings account, perhaps it can be a blessing to your grandchildren.
: The car you drive in retirement is unimportant financially. You should not have a car loan, however. In retirement, interest should be exclusively a one-way street: you collect it from others. You don’t pay it.
There are lots of models for retirement, from living between the beach and the golf course in Hawaii, to living in subsidized government housing. There are happy retirees — and unhappy curmudgeons — at every economic level. By getting yourself completely out of debt for retirement, you can reduce your worries and settle in easily to a lifestyle you’ll be able to maintain as long as your health allows.
Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.