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Illustration by Mark Matcho

5 Smart Things to Do the Minute You Retire

Nov 05, 2015

At every stage of your journey to retirement, you need to know the essential money moves you should be making, the savings target you're aiming for, and the ideal mix for your investment portfolio. Those checkpoints change as you move from your starting out years to your career high point to the pre-retirement red zone. Once you've hit retirement, your work isn't done.

1. Saving and Investing: Create a replacement for your paycheck

Why it's key • Research finds that retirees feel more confident when their living expenses are covered by a guaranteed income.

How to do it • If Social Security and a pension aren't enough, lock in more with an immediate annuity, which lets you turn a lump sum into a monthly check for life. A 65-year-old man who invests $100,000 today could collect $560 a month. Get quotes at Immediate Annuities.com. Stick to insurers rated A+ or higher from Standard & Poor's or A.M. Best.

2. Work: Freshen up your résumé

Why it's key • Three-quarters of Americans over age 50 say they expect to work in retirement, but only 27% of retirees actually collect a paycheck, EBRI reports.

How to do it • "One of the biggest mistakes people make is falling out of contact with their network," says Tim Driver, CEO of RetirementJobs.com. You finally have time to check out a confer-ence or take former work friends out for lunch. Update your résumé while your accomplishments are still fresh.

3. Social Security: Hold out for a richer benefit

Until age 70, waiting to claim earns you a bigger check. But according to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, even retirees with ample assets often grab a sure thing too quickly. In a study of IRA assets, the researchers found that 34% of early claimers had enough savings to wait two years; 26% could have held out for four years. Why does that matter? You can claim your Social Security benefit as early as age 62. If you wait just two more years, your Social Security check will be 15.6% bigger. Putting off claiming for four years means a 33.3% jump.

4. Lifestyle: Become a social media maven

Why it's key: Retirees who maintain social connections are happier and healthier. To replace the social interaction you lose by not going into an office every day, you can join clubs or volunteer. But recent studies show that social media is also a valuable way to stay connected. A team of Mexican researchers found that people 65 and older who are active on social networking sites like Facebook enjoy better health and reduce their chances of cognitive decline.

How to do it: Log in to Facebook. Then post, comment, and share articles. Those status updates, it seems, are actually good for something.

5. Planning: Secure your legacy

There's more to estate planning than wills and health care directives (you have those, right?). To ward off any tension later, talk to your children about who wants jewelry and other sentimental items. Spell out who gets what in a personal property memorandum. Learn more at nolo.com.

These five moves should set you up for a successful retirement. But also check these benchmarks to make sure you're well positioned for the many years ahead:

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Notes: Savings rate assumes retiring at 66, replacing 75% of your pre-retirement income, with Social Security covering 20%; average annual real rate of return of 4%; and 4% initial withdrawal rate, adjusted for inflation. Sources: Morningstar, Northstar Investment Advisors

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