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Retirement is one of the biggest changes you ever make. Too often I see people regret retiring. They did not think through some of the problems that are likely to happen. You don't want to be part of that group. Instead, think about retirement in a way that helps you decide whether you are ready for the big day.

Define what retirement is for you. How do you plan to fill your days? You spend about 2,000 hours working a year. If you include commuting, the amount of time is likely closer to 2,700 hours. That's a lot of free time once you retire.

Playing golf and doing chores around the house don't fill all of the hours. You need to really think about and actually write down what you plan to do and how much time it takes you.

If you plan to spend your retirement years hanging out with your old co-workers, you need to think again. When you leave your job, the phone stops ringing.

I know this sounds harsh, but it's just the way it is. You need to be ready to build new friendships. You need activities that put you in touch with new people after you stop working. This is one of the most difficult things to do in retirement.

You might have grandchildren in a different part of the country, and you want to sell your house and move to be close to them. You might have health issues or at least worry about medical problems. If so, do you need to make modifications to your home, like installing ramps or support bars in the shower?

These are things I want you to think about. Essentially, you build a new life for yourself when you plan for your retirement.

If you have a reasonable amount of money saved, you probably have lots of options in retirement, like foreign travel. If you don't, you might have to be more realistic. In all cases, you need to know what your retirement lifestyle costs and whether your budget supports it.

Know where your living expenses come from. If you have a good pension, payments kick in when you retire. But more likely, you're going to plan on spending money in your 401(k), your individual retirement account or just plain old savings.

You probably also have an option to take Social Security benefits. Really think about when to claim Social Security. You want to weigh carefully about taking early payments versus waiting until you're 70. The later you start receiving it, the larger your monthly benefit. The analysis is worth your time.

Can you afford to retire? Finally, we get to the big question. If you don't have enough saved or enough income to support your ideal lifestyle, should you retire? Make the decision before you leave your job, because when you are over 60, finding a job that pays the same as the one you have now might be difficult.

The longer you work, the less savings you will need for retirement. Your company might be very happy for you to stay even though you are eligible for retirement. Spend some time to work out the math. You won't regret it.

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