Retirement Checklist For 2023

Retirement aged couple and their daughter look at a laptop to discuss future.

Your To-Do List for Retirement

In the midst of retirement, many aging adults become anxious. Lifestyle, spending habits, and income sources can dramatically change retirement plans. It’s understandable for many to wonder what they need to include on their retirement list. By planning ahead with a retirement checklist, people can mitigate concerns, and develop a better understanding of when to retire and how they will manage their finances as they enter a new life chapter.

Preparing For Retirement: What To Do Before You Retire

Many experts recommend that a person should have at least 70% of their current income saved up in order to maintain their lifestyle during retirement. Sources of income can include 401(k) plans, IRAs, other savings and investments and rental income. Advanced planning is necessary in order to determine whether or not one has enough money saved up for retirement. Before one reaches the eligible age for retirement, key milestones on the retirement checklist need to be reached in order to meet one’s expectations for income and cost. Let’s review them.

1. Assess Your Financial Situation


Take a look at your current income, debts, spending, and net worth. Estimate the likelihood that these might change. Consider potential lifestyle changes: Downsizing? Traveling more? Moving to a more or less expensive area? Also, consider any new retirement expenses that may arise.

Calculate the expected cost of living in retirement, including housing, food, health care, taxes, entertainment, and travel. Distinguish between fixed and variable costs.

Whenever possible, work towards entering retirement debt-free. By paying off any outstanding debt, retirement benefits can be used solely for living expenses in retirement.

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2. Calculate Your Retirement Withdrawals

Among the income sources available to individuals are Social Security benefits, retirement plans, pensions, retirement savings accounts, dividends, and part-time employment. Depending on withdrawal requirements and life circumstances, income amounts may vary over the years, and the mix may fluctuate. If a person is retired early, he or she might wait to take Social Security and draw on other income sources before taking Social Security.

  • Required minimum distributions (RMDs) are withdrawals you’re required to make from certain retirement accounts as you approach your 70s.
  • In traditional IRAs, SEP IRAs, and SIMPLE IRAs, RMDs begin at age 70.5 (if born before July 1, 1949) or 72 (if born after June 30, 1949).
  • An IRS chart comparing RMDs for IRAs and defined contribution plans can be useful for forecasting.
  • Minimum distributions are not required for Roth IRAs.
3. Consolidate Your Accounts if Possible

A direct rollover from a 401(k) to a traditional IRA might be a good option for some people over the age of 59.5, a process in which the original custodian of retirement funds transfers funds directly to the new custodian without going through the account owner first. During the direct rollover, the funds are kept tax deferred, but penalties and taxes must be avoided if it is not done within 60 days.

In an indirect rollover, funds are sent directly to the account holder, who then invests the funds. In order to decide whether to consolidate accounts, it may be helpful to discuss options with a financial planner or advisor.

4. Calculate Your Social Security Benefits

Through the Social Security Administration’s My Social Security website, individuals can test various scenarios before deciding on a retirement date:

  • What is the impact of age on benefits? According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the full retirement age is between 65 and 67, depending on birth year. The longer a person waits to retire, the higher their benefit. Social Security benefits can be maximized by waiting until 70 to begin collecting, but there are personal factors that can influence a beneficiary’s decision to collect benefits earlier. Starting at age 62, you can start collecting benefits. ‍
  • Will continuing to work impact you? Working won’t prevent you from receiving Social Security benefits, but it may have an impact on the amount you receive, depending on your full retirement age. A worker who works (but is under full retirement age) and earns more than the SSA’s earnings limits will receive a reduced benefit. When a person reaches full retirement age, SSA recalculates their benefit amount to account for any months they did not receive the full benefit. ‍
  • How long will you live? If you are concerned about health conditions and longevity, you might consider taking Social Security before you reach your full retirement age if your anticipated life expectancy is low. Alternatively, if you’re healthy and there’s a chance of outliving your pension or annuity, you might be able to maximize the benefit by waiting until age 70.
5. Know How Medicare Works

Those who have paid Medicare taxes for their entire working years can enroll in Medicare once they turn 65. Three months before turning 65, individuals can apply for Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance). If you wait longer to enroll, you may be penalized for being late, unless you are still working and receiving medical health insurance. Retirees may want to explore alternative health-care options before enrolling in Medicare, and afterward.

Should you retire before Medicare kicks in, you may want to have another health insurance plan in place as a safety net.

When you turn 65, you might receive a form letter telling you that Medicare coverage won’t cover all expenses. Supplemental insurance can help fill the gaps in your coverage, which could include copays for doctor visits and hospital stays for things like post-operative care and long-term care. From the Department of Health & Human Services: On average, a person turning 65 today is almost 70% likely to require some kind of long-term care. Individuals need to do their research on supplemental insurance plans and long-term care insurance for retirement if they want to wade through those costs.

6. Strategies For Earning Income Outside of Retirement Accounts

Investor priorities change once retirees retire, so income strategies can also change. Knowing the types of investment and income options available can help retirees prepare for possible changes.

  • A Social Security strategy should be incorporated. If you want to retire early, but you have pensions or annuities to draw from, it may make sense to wait until you reach full retirement age, even if you’re 70 years old. Those who wish to retire earlier can invest the benefit and let it grow while they remain employed, rather than taking it at full retirement age. ‍
  • The different investment bins can be rebalanced as needed. For example, some money may still go into growth stocks, but less of it. More assets may go into other categories such as bonds and alternative investments like real estate. 
  • The total return portfolio strategy allows an investor to take out a percentage while preserving the long-term rate of return. A qualified financial advisor can advise investors on the possibilities – income mutual funds, closed-end funds, dividend income funds, among others. 
  • Pretax Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) can be used for long-term medical expenses in retirement. Money used for qualified medical expenses can be withdrawn tax-free. Investors can use the HSA money they saved for nonmedical expenses after they reach 65 without penalty. Investors who max out their contributions and invest for the long run can use the HSA for retirement income.
  • As people enter retirement, some switch from a long-term growth investment strategy to an income investment strategy. This kind of portfolio diversification prioritizes a more steady flow of income.


After Retirement, What Should You Do?

After retirement, does the planning stop? Not exactly. There are plenty of financial issues to keep track of.

  • In retirement, people may consider taking on part-time work to boost their income by balancing income and expenses. If lifestyle expenses drain savings too quickly, they may consider cutting spending in non-fixed areas of the budget.
  • Tracking investments and market conditions carefully might require a retiree to rebalance investments when necessary.
  • There could be a need to revise the estate plan, including the will, advanced health-care directives (living wills), trusts, powers of attorney, life insurance, and estate tax planning.


Retirement planning involves getting prepared for the changes in lifestyle and finances that occur during the golden years. There are many moving parts on the retirement checklist, and priorities can shift as one approaches retirement.

Identifying optimal times to withdraw income from various sources and solving the Social Security puzzle are among the most important items on the checklist.

Some people seek the advice of a RIA to boost their confidence about this next chapter in life. Research and creating a personalized retirement checklist might ease any possible anxiety. If you’re looking to have the benefits of working with an RIA to reach your retirement goals without the cost, check out the many RIA strategies exclusive to Echo Trade.