The saddest part about retirement in our culture today is how utterly unprepared most people are for the day when work is now longer the major activity in their life. Studies show that most Americans don't save, have no pension and have given little thought on how to pay for medical and doctor bills beyond what Medicaid and Medicare pay.
Preparing for retirement needs should ideally start as soon as one enters the work force. A general rule is that you should put aside at least 5% of your income for retirement and 5% for emergency or short term needs. If you have a 401K, put the maximum amount in towards retirement after day-to-day expenses and major family needs like college for the kids are met. Once someone is in their 50's, and as the government makes extra payments possible for older workers approaching retirement, ever single extra dollar should go towards retirement.
From age 55-65, a financial adviser and retirement consultant should be regularly consulted. This is the time to slowly move away from high-risk and volatile stock and mutual funds and move towards more conservative and safe investments like bonds, guaranteed annuities and even money market accounts. It should go without saving but debt is not something that should be accumulated as one approaches retirement. Stop using credit cards unless you are sure you can pay the monthly balance in full every month.
Another thing as retirement approaches is to gradually start living like you are retired. Draw up a budget and stick to it. Uncomplicate your lifestyle. Practice paying in cash for everything. Start monitoring your spending. When you start living on a fixed income, impulsive buying can no longer be a part of you life. One more thing: Plan to enjoy your retirement. If you don't have a hobby, get one. Also get regular exercise. And look around for cvic and church groups you can offer your time and talents to as a volunteer.
Retirement is what we make of it. And making it a successful retirement requires us to do some planning. After all, it's the rest of your life we're talking about. Here's hoping you make it the best of your life.
The author is the publisher of the Our Time Now retirement Blog (http://www.ourtimenow.com ) and the Online Christian Shopper (http://www.onlinechristianshopper.com ) Christian T-Shirt and Jewelry site.