Retirement is a period many people look forward to. If you're planning to leave the workforce next year, you're no doubt eagerly anticipating the freedom that decision will bring you. At the same time, you don't want to rush into retirement without being adequately prepared. Here are a few key things to know about retiring in 2019 that will help you navigate this exciting milestone.

1. You can file for Social Security if you were born in 1957 or earlier

Though Social Security won't be enough to pay all of your bills in retirement, those benefits should serve as a nice supplement to whatever other income you have. You're allowed to file for Social Security as early as age 62, which means that if you're retiring next year and were born in 1957 or earlier, you're eligible to start collecting benefits right away.

Senior couple on golf course


That said, filing at 62 means taking an automatic reduction in benefits -- one that might remain in effect for the rest of your life. If you're counting on that money to play a big role in your retirement finances, you may be better off waiting until you reach full retirement age to start getting benefits. Meanwhile, if you were born in 1953, you'll reach your full retirement age of 66 at some point next year.

2. If you're not yet 65, you won't be eligible for Medicare

Many people choose to retire in their early 60s or even their 50s. There are plenty of benefits to early retirement, but one major drawback is not being eligible for Medicare. Although you can sign up for Medicare a few months before you turn 65, coverage under the program doesn't begin until your 65th birthday. Therefore, if you're planning to retire next year and won't yet be 65, you'll need to secure health insurance on your own.

Be sure to plan for this expense, keeping in mind that the amount you contribute toward your annual premium while working might be only a fraction of its total cost if your employer provides a generous subsidy. If you're planning to obtain health coverage under COBRA until you turn 65, know that you can only do so for a maximum period of 18 months, and that you'll be paying the full (non-subsidized) cost of your premiums under your current plan.

3. It may be the wrong time to start withdrawing from savings

The purpose an IRA or 401(k) is to provide income in retirement, so if you've saved nicely throughout your career, you may be gearing up to access those funds as soon as you leave your full-time job. Unfortunately, November was a pretty rocky month for the stock market, and unless things improve in December, you may find that your portfolio is worth a lot less at the start of 2019 than it was earlier this current year. So, you may want to hold off on taking withdrawals from savings until the market has a change to recover.

What will you do for income in the interim? There are several options you can explore. For one thing, if you have savings in a traditional bank account, you can use some of that cash, coupled with your Social Security benefits, to tide yourself over in the near term. Another route you might take is applying for a home equity line of credit, and using it to access money for living expenses as needed. Finally, think about working in some capacity to generate income, whether by starting your own business or consulting in your former field. Incidentally, this will give you something meaningful to do with your time, thereby helping you avoid overspending on leisure.

The more prepared you are going into retirement, the smoother a transition it'll be. Keep these points in mind if you're planning to leave the workforce next year, and with any luck, you'll end up enjoying the start of your golden years to the fullest.