After working at the public library for 38 years, I’m retiring in May. I’ll be 65 years old by then and my health is good, so it seems like the right time. With my last day practically around the corner, I was recently asked, “So, are you excited by the prospects of retirement or apprehensive?” My answer was a resounding “Yes!” By which, I hastened to add, I meant a little of both.
I am excited about the additional time I will to be able to devote to a few of my favorite things, including bicycling, kayaking, gardening, cooking, and of course, reading. My apprehension is primarily based on the need to navigate the bureaucratic intricacies of Medicare, the Social Security and Wisconsin Retirement systems, life and health insurance, and income tax, to name a few.
Some of the decisions I’ve been making lately will have a profound impact on what my life will be like going forward, but some of the decisions also have a long-term impact on my survivors once I’ve checked out for the last time. The Social Security Administration website has a calculator that will estimate your benefits based on your actual earnings history. The website can also help you determine your Full Retirement Age, the point at which you can receive 100% of the benefits for which you are eligible. Mine is 66, so I will be retiring from the work world a year before I can collect full benefits. However, I can collect slightly reduced benefits at age 65…but should I? I estimate that it will take me nearly 12 years to make up the difference by waiting for 100% instead of taking the reduced benefit now. I’m likely to be more active now than when I’m 77, so that should be a consideration, along with tax liability, for when to apply.
Of course health care must be a consideration, and wayfinding the landscape of both Medicare and supplemental insurance is a challenge, to say the least. It took me three tries before I found the right person to verify for me what I needed to sign up for…and what I didn’t. Not only is Medicare.gov a go-to website for Medicare enrollment, etc., it also has a guide for supplemental insurance.
Retirement, I’ve learned, is a balancing act and everyone will have different circumstances to weigh. There are many helpful resources, but always keep the source of information in mind, e.g. do they really just want to sell me something or do they have a particular ax to grind? There are books to help you plan, including The Retirement Maze, What You Should Know Before and After You Retire, that center on finances, and those such as Planning Your Time in Retirement : How to Cultivate a Leisure Lifestyle to Suit Your Needs and Interests that focus on lifestyle.
It may be true that you’re never too young to start retirement planning, but I also think you’re never too old to learn more about your options.
Retirement, here I come. See you in the library’s Check Out line!