Some birthdays are watersheds. 16 is one because we can get a driver’s license. Then 21, because we can legally drink alcohol. 30 and 40 hold a certain landmark status and with 50 comes the shock of the AARP invitation in the mail. Even compared with all of these, 62 is the one that overflows with significance and choice.
At 62, we first qualify for Social Security. That means facing decisions that are not about planning for retirement, but actually being retired.
If the company offers early retirement, how do we evaluate that offer? Retiring means taking ownership of 401K’s or other retirement savings. There is also the issue of health insurance, since Medicare doesn’t kick in until we turn 65; talk about your Medi-gap! Questions like whether to start taking Social Security at 62 or 65 can be more complex than we realize and can impact income-eligible programs like fuel assistance.
Perhaps the hardest part is re-contextualizing the way we view the future. We work a lifetime planning for “the golden years” and suddenly they are upon us. Retirement isn’t a destination after all, but a journey of its own.
For more and more people, it isn’t even retirement. We are just changing jobs, perhaps working fewer hours or in a field we enjoy more. Increasingly, retirement isn’t seen as “no longer working”, instead it is working differently.
In preparing for retirement, people often underestimate how long they will live. If we expect to live until our early 70’s, the additional Social Security we qualify for by waiting two or three years doesn’t seem worth it. However, if we are likely to live well into our 80’s or beyond, it is may be better to delay taking Social Security for as long as possible.
Then there is life insurance and long term care insurance. At 62 we are on the verge of entering the territory where these products may matter more, yet be less available or affordable.
One of the ways we should all celebrate turning 62 is by contacting a financial professional. It is a time to review our finances and also a good time to review our relationship with the advisor. After all, managing assets with a goal of accumulating wealth is very different from managing those assets with a goal of spending down the wealth.
If we aren’t working with a financial professional, this is a good time to get one. Even those of us with modest wealth should at least avail ourselves of the free initial consultation most offer.
We should also meet with an elder law or estate planning attorney. Estate and Medicaid planning need to start early to be effective.
And we shouldn’t forget to contact our local Agency on Aging. OK, we may not feel that old. Still, why not understand the support they offer?
And don’t forget to contact the National Parks and get your Golden Eagle lifetime pass for just $10. With it, visits to any National Park or Monument in the country are free. (Finally, something good about turning 62!)
So, for all of us who will be turning 62 soon: Congratulations! Welcome to the world of Aging in Place. Now we need to get busy with our homework because, Aging in Place, doesn’t happen by accident.