These days, as the time for my retirement draws closer, I have a new mantra. As with everything from my money-saving strategy to my action plans, I constantly remind myself: finish strong!
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t always heed the advice of financial experts in my younger years. By following my heart in choosing a career, which I was told from the beginning would be more interesting than lucrative, refinancing my home mortgage in the early 2000s whenever I needed extra cash. To my habit of doing, I have often done what financial advisors tell you. Shouldn’t.
I can’t say that I regret it. My career as a newspaper reporter has been lucrative and fulfilling, and those domestic refinancing decisions helped me live a better life, raising my son as a single mother from a young age, of the United States Established a strong bond with her on regular visits. , Mexico, and Canada, and helping out during his college years.
Still, over the past 10 years, I’ve realized that I need to get serious. I’ve taken the attitude that there is still hope for late bloomers in retirement planning.
With a little catch-up in mind, here are seven things I do to prepare for a successful retirement that will involve a lot of travel.
1. Tracking My Social Security Account
For years, I ignored the letters I received each year from the Social Security Administration. But a few years ago, I decided to take a closer look online. I found that setting up a secure account was easy (explained in this PDF).
Once you have an account, the website at SocialSecurity.gov provides information about your expected benefits, your lifetime earnings history, and your full retirement age (FRA). It also includes a convenient sliding scale that lets you set your profit now, a year from now, or at any random date in the future. I’ve found it helpful to tell me what to expect and how to adjust my 401K and retirement-savings program accordingly.
Author near Sedona, Arizona (Photo Credits: Cindy Barks)
2. Taking on Freelance Writing Assignments
As a lifelong news junkie and career newspaper reporter, I have long been immersed in politics, government and current world events. I like this. But about 7 years ago, I decided I needed another writing outlet. Because I’ve always traveled every chance I get, I decided to start a travel blog. To connect with my Arizona location, as well as my interest in places near and far, I called it NearAndFarz.
It’s a labor of love, but I soon realized I didn’t like the business of trying to “monetize” my blog. The idea of freelance writing attracted me, and I soon got an assignment with a Trails magazine about a historic trail in my community that has created a variety of wonderful hiking-focused writing opportunities over the years. A few other freelance assignments also came along, and then in 2019, I started writing articles and taking pictures travel wait And has written more than 150 articles till now.
As well as being one of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve ever had, freelance writing has allowed me to have an additional source of income while building out my retirement strategy. There are plenty of other gig opportunities out there (online tutoring, online sales, or renting a spare room or second home) that will serve the same purpose. I wish I had started sooner!
Pro Tip: If you love your side job like I do, it can turn out to be a great source of extra income after you retire.
3. Pay off my mortgage early
I was familiar with financial advice that suggests, if you have a low interest rate on your mortgage, which I did, you might want to prioritize growing your savings before paying off your mortgage. For a variety of reasons, I decided against that strategy a few years ago and started putting any extra money I had in my mortgage.
In early 2021, my mortgage was repaid almost 4 years ahead of schedule, and I must say, it has given me a tremendous sense of freedom. Of course, everyone’s situation is different, but for me, raising the morale of paying my house was worth going against conventional wisdom.
4. Taking a Free Course on Retirement Strategies
I recently attended a free two night course on retirement planning that was offered at my local public library. A quick Internet search will reveal many opportunities for in-person or online courses. The course I took was sponsored by a non-profit organization and provides information about tax trends that can affect Social Security benefits, as well as financial pitfalls to avoid during retirement.
The course also includes an opportunity to meet one-on-one with the trusted financial advisor who led the class. The meeting proved to be a very useful assessment of my finances and my outlook for retirement. I’ve made some adjustments to my savings based on that advice, such as moving to a Roth IRA instead of the tax-deferred programs I was focusing on.
The author using his points on a trip to the Czech Republic (Photo Credits: Cindy Barks)
5. Saving Credit Card Points for Future Travel
I have accumulated and used thousands of credit card points over the years and was able to cover most of the costs for big trips like a trip to Czech Republic in 2018. Lately, though, I’ve been focusing on it. Storage instead of use. My theory is that during my years of work, I have a little more income to pay for airline fares and hotel rooms.
I’ve taken on several new airline and hotel credit cards over the years, and I’m glad to see my points balance build up. I’m looking forward to putting a lot of points and miles to use during my first few years of retirement.
Pro Tips: It is important to remember that this strategy comes with some risk, as some experts predict that the value of credit card points will decrease in future years. Some already have them, and it pays to keep a close eye on pending changes. Credit card holders should also be sure to check if and when their points expire. Also, it should go without saying that you need to pay off your balance regularly to realize the full benefits of Credit Card Points.
Portland, Maine (Photo Credit: Cindy Barks)
6. Researching Potential Retirement Locations
Although I don’t travel to places to check their retirement potential, I often arrive at a destination and think, “This would be an amazing place to spend some time.”
Some of my favorite places in the western United States have been the California Central Coast city of Paso Robles, the Oregon Coast, and my all-time favorite city, San Francisco. On the East Coast, I love Portland, Maine, and Virginia Beach, Virginia. I already live in one of the most popular retirement destinations in the country, so I can always choose to live in Arizona as well.
I realize that many things will go into this decision, including the cost of living, which tends to be higher when near the sea and in larger cities, as well as the location of my family members. Still, having spent your entire life in land-locked places, it would be wonderful to be within a quick drive of the beach!
photo credit: Cindy Barks
7. Keep Traveling Because You Never Know
For me, one of the big takeaways of the COVID-19 pandemic is grabbing travel opportunities when they are available, because you never know when the landscape will change.
Although the pandemic forced me to cancel two dream trips to Sicily and Florida early, I’ve been able to take trips to Nevada, Virginia Beach, Vancouver and California’s Central Coast over the past 2 years. Each of those visits occurred during a positive window in the pandemic, followed by a period when travel became more difficult again.
Therefore, my advice is to continue traveling as long as you can, and not to postpone trips until you are retired. Although I hope to visit More After retirement, I don’t see an argument for discontinuing travel altogether.
Overall, although I know it would be better to start my retirement planning sooner, I hope it is possible to recover from the early wrong steps and still fashion a successful retirement by taking later life steps. finish strong,