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Published: Mar 29, 2023 6 min read
Collage of: Old woman, house, and old man on bike
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About 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, and though everyone's financial situation is different, that means it's safe to say millions of people are getting ready to retire in 2023.

Retirement can be an exciting prospect, offering older adults the chance to travel, indulge their hobbies and spend time with the grandkids. But it can also be daunting, if only because of the cost: U.S. government data shows the average retiree household spends $52,141 annually. Surveys show Americans expect they'll need $1.25 million, in all, to retire comfortably.

It's crucial that you're prepared before you kiss 9-to-5 life goodbye. If you're retiring this year, here are three money moves to make:

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1. Know what your budget is

Do you know how much you spend on a regular basis? Barbara Pietrangelo, chair at Life Happens, a nonprofit organization focused on life insurance education, says this is one of the main questions to answer before you enter retirement on a fixed income.

She suggests going through six months' or a year's worth of credit card and bank statements to determine how much you can expect your expenses to be in retirement. You can even try living on that income for a few months. Not only is it good to know where your money's going, but it's also helpful with setting goals.

Consider what payments you'll have coming in — Social Security, pension, et cetera — and make a plan for how you're hoping to spend your time in retirement. To make sure you have enough money to "do all those things you want to do," Pietrangelo says, you may need to re-evaluate.

Think about what's non-negotiable (water bills, property taxes, car insurance) and what could be reduced (eating out, shopping, streaming subscriptions). Ask yourself: Do you need to downsize? Should you relocate? Look into a part-time job?

"There's not a rule of thumb because everybody's different," Pietrangelo adds. "I have clients that live on $30,000 comfortably and people that live on $300,000 uncomfortably. What do you need?"

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2. Stash money away

Ideally, you'll be entering retirement with little or no debt, so prioritize paying down any lingering balances ASAP.

Once those bases are covered, Chad Willardson, the founder and president of Pacific Capital, recommends you maximize your contributions to retirement accounts. And take advantage of those catch-up contributions: If you're over age 50, you can save as much as $30,000 in a 401(k) or 403(b) and up to $7,500 in an individual retirement account (IRA) in 2023.

But don't just throw cash into these accounts and forget about them. Willardson says to make sure your investment portfolio is properly diversified and aligned with your risk tolerance. You may want to speak with a financial advisor to double check that you're on the right track to reach your retirement goals.

It's also important to build an emergency fund. This isn't a nest egg; it's a rainy day fund that you can use to cover any unexpected costs that may arise (think: car trouble, pet care, home repairs).

Try to put away six months of expenses, and make sure that cash is accessible — a high-yield savings account may be a good place to put it. That way, you're increasing your financial security and earning interest.

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3. Prioritize your health

Health care can be a major expense in retirement. Fidelity estimates that the average 65-year-old couple will need about $315,000 in after-tax savings to pay medical bills in retirement.

So before you retire, it's not a bad idea to schedule regular check-ups with your doctor and dentist. Start thinking about ways to stay active and healthy in retirement, like by joining a gym, trying a new sport or hiring a personal trainer. Physical and mental wellness is paramount.

From a strictly financial point of view, there's no time like the present to "make sure you understand your Medicare options and potential out-of-pocket costs," Willardson says.

Consider: Do you need Medicare supplement insurance? Should you get long-term care insurance? Can you make room in your retirement budget for prescriptions?

While health is on your mind, you may also want to review your estate plan. Pietrangelo suggests putting together a booklet with all your paperwork (will, health care directive, power of attorney) and telling your family where to find it. Double-check your beneficiaries and speak with an estate planning attorney to make sure everything's airtight. That way, you have peace of mind going into retirement.

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