By Amie DeCamillo
The generation that introduced "business casual" into the workplace is the same generation now giving the definition of retirement a makeover--the baby boomers. Sixty-five is no longer the magic number for retirement. In fact, according to The 2006 Merrill Lynch New Retirement Study, 71 percent of boomers say their ideal retirement actually involves working full- or part-time. Since there are no signs that this trend is waning, there are a few things you can do to help ensure that your own vision of the "new retirement" becomes a reality.
Determine Your Retirement Dream
Thinking about what kind of retirement lifestyle you would like to have is the first step in making your own vision of the new retirement a reality. Whether your vision entails embarking across the world or starting a new career or business, knowing how your vision will impact your financial life is important. Having an essential partner to help you develop a strategy for any of your goals from the very beginning may help ensure all of your goals are met successfully.
Have a Plan
The Merrill Lynch study also found that individuals who have a comprehensive retirement plan are five times as likely to feel financially prepared than those who do not. Preparations such as planning to reduce debt help alleviate financial concerns. Planning future health care costs early can also help to answer lifestyle questions about where to live and to work. If you plan on working, it's important to know how the continued income stream can impact your employer-sponsored 401(k). The study showed that those who have comprehensive plans already are significantly more likely to be looking forward to retirement and are less likely to fear running out of money or possibly Social Security cutbacks.
Consider a New or Second Home
One of the many changes that come with retirement may be choosing where to live. If you want to live maintenance-free, you may want to downsize into a condo. Or, since your children are no longer a concern, you may want to relocate to a different area. Investing in vacation property may also be an enjoyable option. While most vacation properties are expensive, since costs include maintenance even when you're not visiting, some vacation properties may turn out to be a lucrative investment. Early planning with a trusted financial advisor and real estate agent can help ensure that you're spending your retirement savings wisely.
Invest in Yourself
Despite concerns over ageism in the workplace, only 25 percent of those who are already living the "new retirement" and have wanted to find work since turning 60 said that they had difficulty finding work that they wanted. As more baby boomers move into their 60s, this is likely to become even less of a concern. Because of this, many see retirement as a time to explore new opportunities or achieve a lifelong dream. Whether it's teaching, going back to school or working as a consultant, boomers may find it's never too late to consider paths they have always wanted to pursue.
Embracing the New Retirement Realities
Retirement today is fresh and active--complete with the flexibilities of other life stages, balancing work and leisure on one's own terms. While there are many uncertainties of aging, the one thing you can plan for is retirement. With the help of a financial advisor, you can both work together to develop a comprehensive approach to prepare for the type of retirement lifestyle you envision. The people who are finding the new retirement to be the most fulfilling are the ones who have defined their goals, planned for their new experiences and built the financial foundation on which they can rely on and fully enjoy their golden years without worry.
Amie DeCamillo is the Managing Director of the Retirement Group at Merrill Lynch.
Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor Julie A. DeTienne