retirement

10 things to do before you retire

Thinking of moving? Stairs are often a concern. Many people look for a house with only one floor, but this doesn't mean that you can't be comfortable in a two-story house during your senior years. "If there are no landings and no changes of direction on the stairway, you can install a chair elevator, which is a lot less expensive than a standard elevator," says Krueger. Big houses are another issue because of the maintenance that comes with them. "Just as many people will downsize so that the kids can't come back to live," she adds.

Assess life insurance needs. Term and permanent life insurance are expensive at retirement age. "The theory is that by that time, you'll have some liquid capital for your executor and have most of your expenses paid off," says Certified Financial Planner H. Mark Saunders, president of Saunders Retirement Advisors in Richmond, Va. "You don't have to replace a salary, and if the right decisions are made when electing your pension options, your spouse will be able to continue the pension and, of course, part of the Social Security." Term insurance is generally recommended for young people who have debt, dependents and few assets. Nevertheless, a life insurance policy may be necessary for estate planning or other purposes.

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Think about getting long-term care insurance. "If you have a horrendous long-term care event and need nursing home care for 10 years, can you afford it without making anybody destitute because you have plenty of money?" asks Certified Financial Planner Michael E. Kitces, director of Financial Planning at Pinnacle Advisory Group in Columbia, Md. Even if you can, long-term care insurance might still be something to consider. Kitces says purchasing a plan is a prudent way for people to manage the risk of losing their assets. It's not inexpensive, though, and it's best to make the purchase when you are in your 50s to avoid even higher rates. Kitces says that for some people, the decision to purchase this insurance has less to do with protecting assets than to ensure a certain level of quality and flexibility of care.

Consider variable annuities. While the consensus of detractors is that these insurance products are designed to enrich insurance firms more than investors, they do have a place in some portfolios. "We are seeing more variable annuities that are designed to create sustainable income in retirement without requiring immediate annuitization at the time of retirement," says Kitces. To convert to an immediate annuity, or to annuitize, means you are turning over your cash balance to the insurance company in exchange for a guaranteed series of payments over a specific time period. Kitces says only a small percentage of deferred annuity contracts actually get annuitized. "The rest of them are either held until death or people take withdrawals from the assets," he says. "People can now take advantage of regular withdrawals and living benefit riders on the newer contracts as a different option to generate income during their retirement years."

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