Your first year of retirement can be exciting and daunting at the same time. On the one hand, you're finally free from the confines of work and can live your life according to your own rules and schedule. On the other hand, there's a little matter of a missing paycheck that can upend your finances if you're not careful.
That's why it's especially crucial to keep tabs on your money as you adjust to life as a retiree. Here are some key moves to make during your first year outside the workforce.
1. Create a budget -- and a backup budget
Just as it's important to have a budget during your working years, you also must follow one in retirement. But when you're starting out, nailing down that budget can be difficult, since you may not have a precise handle on your expenses. And it might take some time for you to determine what sort of income level you'll be looking at.
That's why it actually pays to map out two separate budgets for your first year of retirement: a standard one and a frugal one. Your standard budget should be the one you most realistically think you'll follow. It should allow you to pay your bills without having to cut corners, and give you some room for leisure spending.
Your frugal budget, meanwhile, should be the one you turn to as a last resort -- namely, if you find that you're depleting your nest egg too quickly or aren't getting as much money from Social Security as you thought you'd receive. It's important to have it in place so you're prepared to make lifestyle changes as needed.
2. Identify your various income streams
Unless you were lucky enough to score a pension from a long-term employer, your primary income streams in retirement will most likely stem from savings and Social Security. But those don't need to be your only sources of income. If you find that your benefits aren't as generous as expected, and that you're not getting a ton of income from your nest egg, then you might explore other means of generating cash, whether in the form of working part time, monetizing a hobby, or renting out your home for additional money.
You might also look into shifting around some investments to allow for a steadier stream of income. For example, if you don't have any dividend stocks in your portfolio, adding some could be a good way to increase your cash flow. And if you're already heavily invested in bonds, you might replace some corporate ones with municipal bonds, whose interest is always tax-free at the federal level. This way, you get that interest income all to yourself without forking over a portion to the IRS.
3. Don't be too proud to ask for help
Maybe you've managed your finances your entire life on your own and take pride in that fact. But there's a difference between keeping up with your bills when you're working and adjusting to a fixed income later in life. If you find that you're starting to struggle with the latter, don't let things get out of hand. Find yourself a financial adviser who can help you get a better handle on your money early on in retirement.
A financial adviser can tell you if you're withdrawing from your nest egg too aggressively, or if you're doing the opposite -- not giving yourself enough income to work with, given your savings level. An adviser can also help you allocate your investments so that they're generating income for you without exposing you to undue risk. There are numerous ways an adviser can help you adjust to the financial implications of retirement, so the sooner you get one, the better.
Though retiring means enjoying a welcome degree of newfound freedom, it can also mean adjusting to a whole new set of financial circumstances. So be kind to yourself during that transition, but also be prepared and seek help as needed. With any luck, your first year out of the workforce will set the stage for a fulfilling and successful retirement.