Opinion | 8 simple steps that can help you check, plan your retirement readiness

Remember that even after you are retired, you will still need a purpose to life

I want to quit my corporate job at the age of 50. I come across the phrase often at my sessions. With jobs being stressful, travel times to work getting longer, not enough work-life balance, it is no surprise that people want to leave their jobs for a slow-paced life. They also believe that they are earning well to do so. But is that enough to retire?

While people want to leave a full-time job much before their retirement age, they are not prepared for it, simply because they don’t have an actual plan in place for it. Here are some simple and easy steps to check (and plan) for retirement readiness.

1) Freeze on the specific age at which you want to retire. Use a retirement planning calculator (which is easily available online), to figure out how much you need for retirement, based on your current monthly expenses.

2) Ask yourself if you would be able to voluntarily leave your job. When the actual time comes, people tend to put it off for another year and so on. Imagine if you are 40 years old and decide to retire at 50. At 50, you may not want to leave the job because you are not sure if your money will suffice and you fear about not having enough. Family situations change and with children away at college, you are not sure about what you want to do with your time. Plus, you may not have reached your career goals.

3) What happens if you are laid off? Will your finances sustain your lifestyle? Do you have passive income, which will see you through till the time you get a job? Or will you have to dip into your savings for monthly expenses?

4) Can you test out living on your retirement fund? Suppose you had a fixed amount available and have to manage within that, can you sustain on that budget? Try it out for a year to see if you dip into other savings or are able to stick to your budgeted allocations. This will help you know if you need to increase your retirement savings.

5) Are you investing enough? So often, I find that people are saving minuscule amounts for retirement and prioritize other goals over retirement. Firstly, you need to invest the right amount, which you can find out through the calculator. Where you invest is also important. Your Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) or Public Provident Fund (PPF) will not suffice. You need equity exposure to help grow your money. This can be done through equity mutual funds and/or the National Pension System (NPS).

6) When will your loans get over? As long as you are paying EMIs, the chances of having enough are slim. Focus on creating a debt repayment schedule designed to pay off loans in two to three years. If you need to live frugally, cut back on vacations and other big expenses, and get your spouse to contribute towards the EMIs.

7) What will you do post retirement? Do you know what you are retiring to? While it is nice to travel and see the world, you would need to keep yourself mentally engaged. Not everybody can do voluntary work or support a cause. Also, suddenly being at home all day may not work well with your spouse! Remember, the partner has a set routine and life and may have to make many changes, to have you in it full time. Even though you would be retired, you will still need a purpose to life. You could start by figuring out what excites you and allocate some time for this activity currently, so that by the time you retire, you can get into it fully. It is important to do this, else you would have a big void in your life. One of my clients sold his business for a handsome amount, after decades of starting it, but got so bored, he tried stock and commodity trading to pass his time, to stop it within a few months due to the losses. He then got into investing in startups only to find that startups only wanted his money and not his time or advice. When you are in a position of power, it is also easier to get things going versus when you are retired.

8) Finally, how will you create passive income before and after retirement? Most people do not make money work for them but work for money. Even while you are working, you should have a passive income stream. Passive income is a good indicator of your level of financial independence. So what level are you at now?

Retirement is when you stop living at work and start working at living. Start planning for that now.

Mrin Agarwal is a financial educator, founder director of Finsafe India Pvt. Ltd and co-founder of Womantra