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Plan now, party later
Get your financial, physical and mental houses 
in order to help make your later years golden

By JULIE LARRIVEE

June 2008

Retirement has a much different face today than in years past. Retirees tend to look at leaving the work force as an opportunity to fulfill dreams and have new experiences.

Experts say the time to start thinking about what your retirement scenario will look like is well before you actually retire. There are many aspects for which you can plan and work toward as you approach the last day you punch the clock. Here are a few to start the process:

What about retirement excites me?Are there aspects that worry me?

"The goal of looking ahead is one of preparing for a change of identity and a change of lifestyle," says Jon Dehlinger, Ph.D., business psychologist and president of Vernon, Roche and Hodgson Inc. in Milwaukee. "Done properly, the transition to a different lifestyle change can be quite fun."

This process should be started well before the retirement date.

"Itís good to start conversations in your mid-50s so that you have time to explore and resolve discussions long before retirement."

Dehlinger says itís important to talk with your spouse about his/her vision of the future, too.

"Oftentimes, spouses have very different visions and that might lead to some marital strife if not addressed," he says. He laughs that his wife has required him to develop three hobbies before he can even consider retiring.

Itís also good to have a plan for how the days once filled with 40- to 60-hour workweeks will be used. "Come up with a list of passions ó things that you really enjoy ó and find ways to get involved in those passions."

He cautions that the first year of retirement can fly by and be filled with activities that have been on the "to do" list for a long time. As those things are crossed off the list, itís important to have something on deck that youíll enjoy doing for the rest of your years.

"By looking at a variety of options, youíll be prepared and not faced with a void in your life that could lead to frustration or depression."

What is my financial situation?

Ah, money Ö It is always an issue in life and a very important consideration in planning for retirement. Figures from the U.S. Department of Treasury suggest that 70 to 80 percent of your preretirement income is needed to maintain your current lifestyle once working days are done.

"The best advice I can offer," says Mequon attorney Stephanie Rapkin, who specializes in estate planning and probate, "would be to find someone reputable who can look at your finances and help you make decisions."

Upon retirement, she says, people are often handed IRA or other accounts that have been previously managed by their employer and they donít know what to do with that sum. Money management, something that perhaps theyíre unfamiliar with or that doesnít seem that difficult, can be overwhelming. "Itís the biggest amount of money that theyíve ever had to deal with and they should have good, solid independent advice about the way to make the money work as they need it to," she says.

Rapkin says she hopes those in their 50s and 60s have committed funds to their retirement faithfully during their working years since thereís not really a way to make up for a lack of savings in their earlier years. She also suggests that setting money aside for retirement should outweigh saving funds for college. "Kids can get scholarships and loans to help with college costs," she says, "but you can only save for retirement one time."

Do I have adequate insurance coverage?

"Now is a good time to re-evaluate your life insurance to determine whether you still need as much coverage. Also remember to update your beneficiaries ó has your spouse died or have you remarried?" says a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance.

The OCI also suggests that preretirement planning include knowledge of your health care coverage. If you retire before you turn 65 and are not yet eligible for Medicare, check to see if you are eligible to continue to get health insurance at the group rates from your former employer under COBRA.

With regard to your home and auto policies, the OCI recommends adding more liability coverage ó and/or an umbrella policy. "At this stage of your life, you may have more assets to protect in the event you are sued. If you decide on an umbrella policy, note that these policies often cover both home and auto liability, and are separate from your homeowners and auto policies," according to the OCI.

Adele Lund, director of community and business relationships for Laureate Group, the largest provider of senior housing in southeastern Wisconsin, suggests that those in pre-retirement planning also investigate long-term care insurance. "Itís been around for a while, but itís becoming more popular and costs have dropped. The younger you buy the policy, the better the pricing. Plans now include more care and assistance."

What can/will I do to ensure that Iím as healthy as I can be?

"Things that you do to get into better shape in your 50s and 60s will make a huge difference in the quality of your life after retirement," says Matt Bartz, fitness director and trainer with Le Club in Glendale.

Bartz recommends that a conditioning regime address balance and strength issues, as well as lower body and core development. "Having better balance and core strength can help you avoid falls. For those who are injured and no longer ambulatory, their health often declines rapidly," he notes. "Understand that there are things you can control and things you canít. You canít control genetics, but you can control your nutrition and activity level."

He tells older adults they can still make gains and improvements in their physical condition, even if theyíve never been active. "You can still gain strength into your 90s. Itís never too late to start. You can still make great strides in your physical condition even if you start working out in your 50s or 60s." m

Find out how far your current lifestyle will carry you into your golden years by logging on to the Eons Longevity Calender, intended for those 50 and up. After answering a series of questions about your physical and mental well-being, it calculates how long you can expect to live and offers tips on how to change lifestyle habits to extend your life expectancy. https://www.eons.com/calculator

This story ran in the June 2008 issue of: