March 27, 2010

Retiring at the End of This School Year?

If you are retiring at the end of this school year, you have been counting down to this moment for probably the last 30 years. You have been dreaming of the days where you would be free from your profession while collecting a nice pension. Relaxing, traveling, or starting a second career are all within your grasp... yet, take some time to make some final plans first. There are several decisions to make, and all of them can have lasting impacts on your life and retirement.

First and foremost, there is your Georgia TRS pension. The best thing to do is to make an appointment with TRS to discuss your benefits and options. By all means, please listen to the various options. Once you start on an option, you cannot simply go back and change your mind later. For instance, if your pension will be the backbone of your retirement and your spouse's retirement, please look at the various joint options. Do not think that since Plan A offers you the most money that it is the best option. Think of your spouse and family, and by all means, consult with an advisor.

Depending on whether or not you contributed to Social Security, you should also look to meet with them to discuss your potential benefits at full retirement age (FRA) or early retirement. Social Security really is one of the services that goes out of its way to help answer questions and project your benefits. You may have an opportunity to help yourself by working part-time in between your retirement and collecting benefits, or you may be somewhere around the maximum you will collect, but the main idea here is to have some projection and not be surprised later.

Your other retirement accounts like a 403(b), Roth 403(b), IRA, or Roth IRA also need to be reviewed. If you plan on taking distributions from these accounts, there are tax implications and diversification changes that need to be considered. There is a big difference between being 52 and 60 when discussing these possibilities, so research, an accountant, and an advisor are definitely important.

Also, your current retirement account provider may try to "sweeten the deal" and have you make changes to your accounts that could have an impact later. Research any offers and really try to ask questions about surrender charges, fees, liquidation rules, withdrawal guidelines, etc. These companies have been pretty notorious about not disclosing the hidden fees and explaining the ultimate changes that are being made to your account.

If you need a job to allow your finances to work, then start making those contacts now. I know of several retirees that took part-time jobs to supplement their pension. They found something they enjoyed, and they started doing it.

Finally, make plans. Make plans to do some of the things you couldn't before and enjoy your life. My last bit of advice though is to try to make sure that you have thought things through. If your plans will require some extra funds, then plan how you will be able to make it work.

Congratulations! You worked hard to get to this point so enjoy it.

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