Having a dream makes retirement planning seem less like drudgery.
One of these days my husband and I want to do The Great Loop -- take the boat through the Great Lakes, down the Mississippi River, around the tip of Florida, up the Intracoastal Waterway and through the Erie Canal back to Michigan waters. Doing the loop takes a couple of years, money, good health and planning. We rode past the boat last week. It's shrink-wrapped and sitting on blocks, waiting for better weather, but just looking at it improved our moods. It also motivated us to get moving.
February is a boring month here. It's cold and dark, and there's no boating and no fun. That leaves plenty of time to do some long-range retirement planning.
Here are some things that are on our docket and probably ought to be on yours:
- Count the money. Before we file taxes, my accountant husband takes a hard look at all of our investments and savings accounts. Are they earning as much as they could?
- Consider the fees. High fees are a retirement saver's serious enemy. New government rules this year make it easier for you to evaluate how much 401(k)s are charging. I'm pulling out all the information from human resources and reading it.
- Recalculate the route. It never hurts in boating or financial planning to take another look at where you're headed and what it's going to take to get there.
- Correct the course. After a rewarding 2010, now is a good time to rebalance investments. It's also wise to make sure we're not forgetting to roll over bonds and CDs. And it's always a good time to increase the amount we're saving.
- Deal with catastrophe. Our insurance agent is happy to do an annual review of our polices, including life and long-term care insurance. Pulling out the will and other final instructions annually also make good sense.
Next step. Get the boat back in the water.