If you're one of the people who find themselves about to take the plunge without much preparation, here are six last-minute steps to take.
- Talk to your employer's human resources department. Ask about your 401(k), severance, unemployment -- anything that could put money in your pocket while you make the transition to retirement and afterward.
- Get your health insurance in order. If you're eligible for Medicare but your employer plan is currently paying first, unless you are offered retiree medical, you'll have to switch to a Medigap and Part D or a Medicare Advantage plan right away. There used to be an eight-month grace period, but no more. If you're not yet eligible for Medicare, explore the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, for primary coverage.
- Check with your former employers. A surprising number of people leave 401(k)s and even pension plans behind when they change jobs -- then forget about them. Make sure you have taken everything that belongs to you.
- Understand what Veterans Affairs will do for you. The VA offers veterans, and in some cases their spouses, an attractive array of benefits, including health care, long-term care, help with home and educational loans, and burial benefits. Most of the benefits are detailed on the VA website. Take time to explore the offerings, and you may be amazed at what you've previously overlooked.
- Develop a Social Security strategy. Don't just sign up blindly. Social Security isn't a simple program. Especially if you are full retirement age and married, widowed or divorced, there are multiple ways to collect. A good place to start the learning process is on Social Security's own website.
- Have your home appraised. For many people, their home is their biggest nest egg. Knowing what you could sell it for or what it might be worth if you apply for a reverse mortgage can give you some peace of mind.