Planning for Retirement – Reviewing Options and Goals


Planning for retirement can be daunting, and, as life expectancies continue to rise, the fear of running out of money in retirement is a real one for many people, according to the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement. It is important, no matter what stage of your life or career you’re in, to think about retirement and what you would like your life to look like. Do you want to retire completely, switch to part-time, travel, or simply have a “work-optional” life?

The US Office of Personnel Management gives a great overview of some of the things to consider when thinking about retirement, no matter what age you are. Even if you have a pension plan, or work in a lucrative field, setting goals and reviewing your options can make planning for retirement a more enjoyable experience.

Teens and Young Adults

Even if you have just barely started working, it’s not too early to start thinking about your future. The teen years and early adulthood are a great time to start figuring out what type of work you like and what kind of worker you are. According to Michigan State University, saving in your teens can lead to a greater retirement portfolio later in life.

Parents can teach their teens and young adults about financial education with sites like Financial Beginnings by making saving and money management a family activity. One great way teens and young adults who are working can start to save is by opening a savings account or Roth IRA. However, teens and young adults choose to approach retirement, it is important to start discovering what their spending, saving, and working habits are like.

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Early Career

After college, life can seem like a whirlwind. Graduating, getting a job or going to graduate school, and starting your career and family can make it hard to focus on “future” problems. But planning and setting goals for retirement are essential steps to take in your early career years, especially as you learn more about your career and expectations. The US Department of Labor offers suggestions for several stages in life.

Retirement may seem far off, but even with the more immediate concerns, retirement is still important. For early career savers, there is importance in saving automatically.

Setting retirement goals can seem daunting, but think about what you like about working and your work-life balance. Do you want to retire early, or do you see yourself working at least part-time for as long as possible? The IRS gives a great breakdown of the different savings and retirement avenues available – especially if you start early.

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Middle Age

Far from being too late to start seriously planning for retirement, middle age is a crucial time. You’re probably established in your career, with well-defined family and work goals. Consumer Reports says that this is the time to “get serious” and start thinking in more concrete terms about both the future and your savings plans.

The California Teachers Union offers some great advice for anyone in middle age – not just teachers – with an article outlining the steps that can be taken to make retirement planning easier and more efficient at this stage of life.

Middle age is a great time to also start putting your plans in motion for anything you want to accomplish during or after retirement. Look at business continuity plans at if you are a small business owner, or at potential future roles in your company if you work for a larger corporation. Or maybe your plan is moving somewhere warm, then this is a great time to start thinking about your tropical paradise and how far your retirement money will go!

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Are you a woman over 50 and thinking about retirement? PBS has some great tips on financial fitness.

There are also government programs, like the Thrift Savings Plan, that can help you catch up with retirement planning if you were unable to contribute as fully as needed to a retirement plan earlier in your career. This a great program to investigate, especially for people who have changed careers in middle age or entrepreneurs who may have missed out on higher earning years in their earlier career.

Nearing Retirement

You’ve planned. You’ve saved. Now you’re ready to retire. Great! Whether you’re retiring completely, switching to part-time for a few years, devoting more time to family or volunteerism, or moving abroad, there are some important planning and goal-setting steps to accomplish even when you’re close to retirement.

One major consideration in retirement is Social Security. While you can start taking your Social Security benefits at age 62, it could be helpful to wait until later or draw spousal benefits first. The University of Rhode Island has some great guidelines on who to speak with and how to determine when you should begin to collect your benefits.

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As you get closer to retirement, just like when starting your career, there may be a whirlwind of activity. The Organization for the Advancement of Library Employees offers some great suggestions, noting that there are two factors at work right before retirement: leaving your career and entering a new phase of life.

Are you a college professor or other higher education employee? This transition may be especially difficult in many ways, but the New England Board of Higher Education has some tips and considerations.

Special Considerations for People Looking to Retire Early

If you are looking to retire early, defined by the National Academy of Social Insurance as retiring at or before age 62, then there are some special considerations to address.

One thing to consider is that if retiring early is on your mind, are there steps other than full retirement you could take to fulfill your desires? The Harvard Business Review notes that many people are taking reduced hours before full retirement rather than just stopping working. This could be a great option if you want a better work-life balance but still enjoy your work, or if you want to spend more time with family on a daily basis, but don’t want to give up a pay check quite yet.

If you do decide to retire early, it’s a good idea to discuss retirement with your financial advisor and to use a retirement calculator such as the one from Boston University, to more finely pinpoint your retirement income needs. These steps can help you plan a stress-free and enjoyable retirement.

Retirement is a stage of life that is important to prepare for, but that should also be anticipated with excitement. Planning at every stage of your life and career can help ensure that you are well-prepared, have solid goals, and love your retirement!

For more information on retirement goals and planning at every age, check out these additional resources:

However you choose to spend your retirement, enjoy it! You will have reached a huge milestone and accomplished a lot!