Regardless of how old you are, it's never too early to start thinking about retirement. It will be here much sooner than you think and if you find yourself unprepared, there may be no way to make up for the lack of preparation in the past.
If you're close to retirement and not sure if now is the right time, you have a unique set of questions to ask yourself before saying goodbye to the life you've lived for decades. Whether you're young or old, there are questions you need to answer before you have a clear picture of what retirement means for you.

Do I Have Enough Money?
The "magic number" question is the question that we all ask, and getting a useful answer is often difficult. The long held wisdom is that you should have enough money to provide 80% of the income you were earning right before retirement. Some studies show that retirees spend less than when they were younger making the eighty percent rule too high, but other studies seem to show that less money is spent because retirees are forced to live on less due to shortfalls in retirement savings.

There is one fact not in dispute: Saving as much as possible now will better position you for retirement later. It doesn't have to be in a formal retirement account either. Fund your 401(k) to its maximum extent and start an IRA. Other savings can be in an investment or savings account. Rather than trying to find a magic number, save and invest more in your working years.

Should I Keep Working?
The traditional retirement age is 65, but that number has slowly risen to 69 according to recent studies by SunAmerica. A variety of reasons have factored in to this but the largest may be the loss of retirement savings as a result of the 2008 and 2009 recession. If you have a shortfall in your retirement accounts or you're in relative good health and could live longer than the amount of money you have to live on, working longer may be required.

There are also non-financial reasons. Some people have a live-to-work mentality where staying at home and taking part in recreational activities isn't healthy for them. If you enjoy working and have the means to do so, working longer can help you reach your savings goals while also keeping your mind and body healthier. Remember that some retirement accounts require that you begin taking payments at a certain age so consulting with a financial planner is well advised.

Is Working an Option?
Forty one percent of people reaching retirement age cite medical problems as holding them back from working any longer. If you're far away from retirement age, it would be dangerous to rely on working past 60 to shore up your retirement goals. There's a better than average chance that you'll have the opportunity to work longer, but money decisions should never be made with hope as part of the reasoning.

What Would You Like to Do?
If you want to work after retirement, position yourself now to be able to do that. What types of jobs would you like to do as a retiree and how can you train for those now? Would you like to be a writer? A consultant? A counselor? Less physically demanding jobs that allow you to work on your own schedule might allow you to achieve a lifestyle of both retirement and still earning a living even if minor health problems do become an issue.

The Bottom Line
Although we hear all the time how we should plan for our retirement, an alarming amount of people have done very little to plan for the golden years. If that's you, now is the time to come up with a plan and start funding those goals.

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