Retirement planning: Begin early, set goals and stay socially engaged –

By Rick Armstrong, WRAL photojournalist

Planning your retirement is a “rest of your life” decision. To make those years all you hoped they would be involves planning.

According to certified financial planner George Phipps, the planning should start 10 to 15 years ahead of time. “The biggest problem is that people typically wait until they are right on top of it or they are at the precipice of making that decision,” said Phipps.

Early planning can help you establish personal priorities like paying off your home and adding to retirement savings.

The next question is how long should you wait to start drawing Social Security benefits?

“The blanket explanation is yes, wait until 70, if you can afford it,” said Phipps. That’s when the monthly benefit stops increasing, even if you continue to delay taking payments.

Every American can begin to collect benefits as early as age 62, however, based on birth year, the yearly benefit amount is as much as 30% less than what can be collected at full retirement age.

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“It all depends on your financial situation and really how much income you need to actually cover your expenses,” explained Phipps.

Money is only part of the challenge of living in retirement. Phipps says after those first few “honeymoon” years, many retirees wish they also had a long-term plan to stay active.

“That’s when a lot of people get involved in charity work and community work, and they have to re-establish their value to society,” he added.

Many choose a “hybrid retirement,” working part-time hours, as another way to stay socially engaged and earn extra income. Bottom line: Retirement does not have to mean retreat.

“You need to stay active. You need to stay social in order to keep all your mental faculties in check and have the longest and happiest retirement possible,” said Phipps.

Only 45% of people retire on their own terms, guided by a plan, Phipps said. The rest are forced into retirement due to family issues, taking care of a relative or a sudden health problem of their own.

It’s another reason why early planning is so important.

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