Senior couple walking on the beach holding hands at sunrise, plan life insurance at retirement concept.
By Anne Gabbianelli

Most Americans leave the workforce and embrace retirement around the age of 65 or sooner, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Yet the fallout from COVID 19 has left some with little choice but to leave the workplace and enter retirement prematurely. The reasons are many — concern over your personal health in returning to the workplace, your job being eliminated, being forced into a caregiver role or staying home with children or grandchildren, or your small business has been economically derailed.     

Financial Advisor Marion Syverson of Norumbega Financial acknowledges some people’s retirement plans are shifting. “Life is full of surprises, and sometimes they stink. You have to deal with the situation as it is. No, you didn’t get to save until you decided to be done. And no, you don’t have your ducks in a row like you wanted.”

Typically, such a drastic lifestyle and income change is something that needs to be planned for. Because retirement is a significant switch, Audrey Klein-Leach, senior trust officer with Camden National Wealth Management, says, “Smart planning, especially in the 5-10 years leading up to retirement, is important. Studies show that 70 percent of those who work with a financial advisor are on track or ahead in saving for retirement, versus 35 percent of those not working with a financial advisor.” 

Chief Operating Officer at Deighan Wealth Advisors, Jennifer Eastman reminds us the loss of a paycheck can be daunting so “try living for a year or two before retirement on what you expect your post-retirement income to be. Not only will you be able to save the difference, you’ll have a better sense of what to expect, and hopefully realize that a reduction in income will not be the shock people may anticipate.” 

Eastman advocates getting your ducks in a row both financially and with estate planning. “Look at your portfolio. Are your investments allocated to properly reflect your willingness to take risk? Explore options for Medicare gap policies and be sure to factor those premiums into your fixed retirement expenses.” She also advises getting your legal documents in order regarding financial and durable powers of attorney and to preserve and protect your assets from the cost of long-term care. 

Thomas Duff of Duff and Associates agrees. “A competent financial advisor can help configure a retirement income plan that factors in Social Security, pensions, 401ks, IRAs and personal savings,” he says. 

Another objective in planning ahead is to enter retirement debt-free or at least mortgage free. Klein-Leach says, “If you don’t have enough funds for retirement, then look into parlaying a hobby into income or doing consulting or other part-time work.” For some, rental properties provide that added income.

There is an emotional component to retirement as well. “Those really ready to retire, and are successful in enjoying their retirement, should start building hobbies, interests, and a network of friends — who aren’t related to their professional positions — years ahead of retiring,” Klein-Leach says. “This sets a good emotional foundation for retirement.”

For those considering retiring five years out, she advises, “Since 90-year-olds are the fastest growing population segment, postpone actual distribution of your nest egg to the latest time to better ensure that you won’t outlive your money.” 

Syverson acknowledges, however, because some people’s retirement plans have pivoted, she finds herself these days advising younger retirees who have fallen victim to COVID’s interference. These people need to reckon with retirement sooner than they thought. Despite whatever life alterations you may be experiencing, Syverson holds true to, “It’s never too late to be wise!”

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