By Bruce Carlson

As Karen and I began the process of moving and heading into retirement we realized financial planning was a key component. We were leaving the working world and losing our regular income required some rethinking of expenses. Moving south helped with the mortgage and lower gas prices. Yet other everyday expenses were higher. So it is time to review our expenses and share our research with you as we began Retired Life Now!

So welcome to our retirement financial planning notes, we’re not experts, but we hope what we found can be helpful to you. We hope the following knowledge and strategies will help guide you to a more secure and fulfilling retirement. Whether you’re just starting your career or nearing the retirement finish line, these top 10 tips will help you navigate the complexities of retirement planning, avoid common pitfalls, and make informed financial decisions.


Tip 1: Starting Early for a Retirement!

I have to say this was one point we could have done better at. We could have put more away, but we weren’t thinking ahead. if we were willing to be a little more uncomfortable early on, our retirement income would be greater now. A live and learn lesson.

Retirement may seem distant, but starting early is the key to a successful retirement game plan. The magic lies in the power of compound interest and long-term investments. Even small contributions today can grow into significant savings tomorrow. By beginning early, you give your money more time to work for you, increasing your chances of achieving financial security in retirement. So, don’t wait! Tee off your retirement savings as soon as possible and watch them grow with every passing year.

Tip 2: Calculating Your Retirement Needs – Par for the Course!

This is a bit of a tough one. We made the assumption that my pension was 100% guaranteed. In 2008 when the markets crashed, my pension never fully recovered. Tough times for the company caused them to stop contributing to the pension fund. As a result, I’m getting much less than we expected. I’m not much of a golfer, but the following golf favor highlights the importance of looking to the future.

Imagine stepping onto the golf course without knowing the par for each hole. It’s essential to have a target in mind when it comes to retirement savings too. Start by estimating your retirement needs. Consider your desired lifestyle, living expenses, and healthcare costs. By calculating these factors, you can determine the savings required to enjoy a comfortable retirement. It’s like setting your sight on the green and ensuring your swing aligns with your financial goals.


Tip 3: Budgeting Birdie – Stay on Course for Success!

I think we did pretty well when it came to budgeting. That was one of Karen’s tasks in our married life. I worked and she figured out how to budget our income. If I have to write out a check it becomes a bit of a challenge. When I was getting paid with checks, the joke was if I ever had to cash the check, the bank wouldn’t recognize my signature.

A solid budget is your caddy on the fairway of financial freedom. Creating a realistic budget allows you to manage your income, control your spending, and save for retirement. Track your expenses, identify areas where you can reduce unnecessary spending, and prioritize saving. A well-structured budget keeps you on course and helps you reach your retirement goals sooner. It’s time to say goodbye to financial hazards and hello to a secure financial game plan.


Tip 4: Maximize Retirement Contributions – Hole in One!

It’s been years since I played golf. My clubs are up above the garage. Hitting a hole in one was something I never made. I do remember one time when we lived in Wisconsin hitting the green on the tee shot. It was probably the best tee shot I ever hit. I picked the right club, a 7 iron, and hit the ball squarely. I wish I could have done that more with our financial planning.

Just as a golfer chooses the perfect club for each shot, it’s crucial to leverage retirement accounts like the 401(k) or IRA to their fullest potential. Contribute as much as you can, taking advantage of any employer matching programs available. These contributions not only grow tax-deferred but also reduce your taxable income. By maximizing your retirement contributions, you’re setting yourself up for a hole-in-one when it comes to building a robust retirement nest egg.

Tip 5: Diversify Your Investments – Mastering the Fairway!

Over the years we have been pretty lucky in life. I always had a good income. We never had any serious crises. I sometimes wonder if a little crisis would have helped us see the future. As I said earlier, we never thought much about the future. Hopefully, we can continue to adapt to the changing environment.

A skilled golfer adapts to various course conditions, and similarly, diversifying your investments is key to mitigating risk and maximizing returns. Spread your investments across different asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, and real estate. By diversifying, you reduce the impact of a single investment’s performance on your overall portfolio. Remember, while diversification doesn’t guarantee profits or protect against losses, it helps navigate the fairway of investment diversity.


Tip 6: Long-Term Care Insurance – A Hole-in-One Shield!

We got lucky on this one. We joined a plan around 25 years ago. It was a new idea and we jumped on it. When we have shown what we have and what we pay for it to our financial advisers they all say don’t default on it. What we’re paying for could never be replaced. As we get older the annual fee creeps up, but it still has a huge value.

Protecting your retirement nest egg is crucial, just as using the right club protects you from hazards. Long-term care insurance shields you from the potential financial impact of needing extended care in retirement. As healthcare costs rise, this coverage helps safeguard your assets and ensures you receive the care you need without depleting your savings. Explore long-term care insurance options to add an extra layer of protection to your retirement game plan.


Tip 7: Unlocking Social Security Benefits – A Golf Swing of Triumph!

I have to admit during my working years, I often wondered if Social Security would be here when I retired. Well, so far it’s here and we’re doing okay with it. I think Social Security is going to be here for a while but for our kids not so sure. The world is changing, but as long as you can get Social Security go for it.

Social Security benefits can be as satisfying as a well-executed golf swing. Understanding how to optimize your benefits is essential. Factors such as the age you start claiming benefits, spousal benefits, and income limitations impact the total amount you receive in retirement. By strategizing and timing your claim wisely, you can maximize your Social Security benefits and make the most of what you’ve earned throughout your working years. Just like a golf swing of triumph, unlocking your Social Security benefits can set you up for a successful retirement game.

Tip 8: Exploring Healthcare Options – Drive to Optimal Care!

When I took the RIF package from Unisys, I gave up the company’s medical insurance. We had some benefits for a while after leaving but soon had to purchase a high-deductible health plan. We hoped we would stay healthy. When I had my knee replacement surgery, we had to sign up for Social Security to help pay the bills. Getting to the Medicare age was a big help. We’re both on it now and our monthly premiums cover all our medical needs now.

Navigating Healthcare in retirement is like finding the perfect club for a challenging shot. Medicare is the primary healthcare coverage for retirees, but it’s essential to understand the various parts, enrollment periods, and potential gaps in coverage. Supplemental insurance, such as Medigap plans, can help bridge these gaps. By exploring healthcare options and selecting the right coverage, you can drive towards optimal healthcare care and peace of mind throughout retirement.


Tip 9: Prepare for Unexpected Expenses – A Golfer’s Resilience!

I don’t know if we have openly thought about saving for the future. We’re doing it more from a let’s watch our expenses. This has helped us keep a small nest egg in our bank account. We have almost everything we want. It’s the day-to-day items we have to think about.

Just as a golfer plans for unexpected hazards on the course, preparing for unforeseen expenses is essential in retirement. Building an emergency fund acts as your financial safety net, providing peace of mind when faced with unexpected situations like home repairs, medical emergencies, or sudden job loss. Aim to save at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in an easily accessible account. By doing so, you cultivate the resilience of a golfer ready to face any challenge on the fairway of retirement.


Tip 10: Seek the SuperGroup – Swing into Retirement Excellence!

You’ve come a long way on your retirement planning journey, and now it’s time to unlock the ultimate advantage. Find a financial adviser that you are comfortable with and get planning that future. With someone you’re comfortable with you can elevate your retirement game to new heights. Your adviser can help you gain access to expert strategies, live Q&A sessions, and a supportive community of like-minded individuals. You’ll be able to navigate the complexities of retirement, share valuable insights, and help you achieve retirement excellence. It’s time to swing into it and make your retirement dreams a reality!


Congratulations on completing our top 10 retirement financial planning tips! By starting early, calculating your retirement needs, budgeting wisely, maximizing contributions, diversifying investments, exploring long-term care options, unlocking Social Security benefits, navigating healthcare choices, preparing for unexpected expenses, and joining the SuperGroup, you’ve set yourself on the path to a bright and secure retirement.

Remember, retirement planning is a continuous journey. Stay proactive, review your goals regularly, and adjust your strategies as needed. With each step you take, you bring yourself closer to the retirement you envision—one filled with financial stability, fulfillment, and the freedom to enjoy the fruits of your labor. So, grab your golf clubs, tee up, and swing into a bright and fulfilling retirement!

We hope you are enjoying these articles and are willing to continue to follow along as we move through the process of selling our house, buying a new house (to become our home), and the adventures of learning about life in southern Illinois, Bruce & Karen.