Seven in 10 workers say they're looking forward to retirement, according to a report from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. So if you can't wait until the day you walk out of your job and never look back, you're not alone.
But wanting to retire and actually being ready to retire are two different things. No matter how badly you want to retire, if you're not financially ready to do so, you could be in a heap of trouble if you run out of money too soon.
Before you call it quits and start living out your retirement dream, ask yourself a few questions first. Your responses will either tell you you're ready to retire, or give you an idea of where you need to focus your saving efforts.
1. How long will your savings last in retirement?
To figure out how long your savings will last, you first need to know how much you expect to spend each year in retirement. Be sure to factor your Social Security benefits into this calculation, too. Although you won't be able to rely on them as your primary source of income, they can help bridge the gap between what you have saved and what you need to make ends meet.
So, for instance, say you expect to spend $60,000 in retirement per year, and $20,000 of that will come from Social Security benefits. If $40,000 per year will need to come from your savings and you expect to spend, say, 25 years in retirement, that means you'll need to have at least $1 million saved. There are also inflation costs to consider, meaning your money won't last quite as long as you may think.
Of course, some factors you can't predict 100% accurately. Nobody knows exactly how long they'll live, for example, and it's unlikely you'll spend exactly the same amount every year of retirement. But the point of this exercise is to make sure your savings are in the right ballpark. If you only have $200,000 saved but expect to spend $40,000 per year in retirement, for instance, you're not quite ready to retire.
2. How will you pay for healthcare costs?
One major variable in retirement is healthcare expenses, which can quickly break the bank if you're not prepared for them. Although, again, you can't predict every health issue that will pop up in retirement, you can at least get an estimate of what you'll spend.
At the bare minimum, you'll be responsible for all premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and copays associated with Medicare coverage. Despite what some people may believe, Medicare coverage isn't entirely free, and you could still face significant out-of-pocket costs in retirement.
Routine care -- such as dental and vision -- can also cost you in retirement, because it's not covered by Medicare. Approximately 65% of retirees enrolled in Medicare don't have dental insurance, and these out-of-pocket dental office visits cost the average retiree roughly $1,000 per year, according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Make sure you're aware of these costs before you retire so you're not surprised if you're slapped with a hefty healthcare bill. Understand what is and isn't covered by Medicare, and think about whether your savings can handle these expenses.
3. How will you pay for unexpected expenses?
Unexpected expenses are a part of life. The car starts making a funny noise, the dog needs expensive surgery, or you twist your ankle and need to visit the hospital. When you're still working, these costs can be a headache. But when you're retired, they can potentially spell disaster.
If you've planned your retirement assuming you'll be spending a certain amount every year, a major unexpected expense could throw off your entire plan. And chances are that over the course of 20 or 30 years in retirement, you'll have several of these types of expenses thrown at you. If you're not budgeting for potentially spending thousands of dollars on these costs, they can cause you to run out of money too soon.
For this reason, it's more important than ever to have a robust emergency fund in retirement. That way, when these costs inevitably pop up, you won't have to dip into your retirement savings to cover them.
Most experts typically recommend saving enough cash to cover three to six months' worth of expenses, but you might aim to save even more in your retirement emergency fund. Because you'll be living on a fixed income, it will be tougher to replenish your emergency savings after you spend some of that money. In order for that fund to last a couple of decades, you'll likely need more than you think.
Retirement is an exciting milestone in life, but it also takes careful planning and preparation. The more prepared you are going into it, the more enjoyable it will be.