Get Ready to Retire in 8 Steps

by | Dec 15, 2023 | Insights, Retirement Planning

You’re ready to retire! Well…you’re ready to be retired. But are you ready financially? Stepping away from your career – and your paycheck! – is a transition with a lot of moving parts. If you’re feeling stressed out already, you’re not alone. It’s one of the most frequent concerns we hear when folks reach out to us for the first time. Fortunately, we’ve found that the right process can create the clarity you need to confidently step into this next phase of life.

Where should you start? Following these 8 steps is a great way to organize what you have and chart the course to where you want to be!


Step 1: Take stock of everything you currently have that will contribute to your retirement.

  • Fixed income sources, income streams like social security, pensions, and rent that will show up every month like clockwork. Take note of how much you’ll receive and when they will start.
  • Healthcare coverage you will have. See our Guide to Medicare for an overview of this part of your benefits.
  • Portfolio assets – the savings and investments you can draw on to fill the gap between your total need and your fixed income.


Step 2: Determine how much you’ll need to spend to enjoy your retirement life.

  • Your monthly expenses to “keep the lights on”, your day-to-day living expenses.
  • Mortgage and other debt payments.
  • Expenses that enrich your life, like a travel budget.
  • One-off big-ticket items like home remodels.
  • Gifts, inheritance, donations you’d like to make.
  • Healthcare expenses. See How Much Will Healthcare Cost for more.


Step 3: Decide when you want to retire by answering the following questions:

  • What age will you stop?
  • Will you stop all at once or will you slow down over a few years and earn a part-time income?
  • Will you and your spouse stop at the same time or will one continue working?
  • If one of you will continue working, for how long?


Step 4: Find your “retirement number”.

This is the amount you need in your nest egg to replace your income and live your dream retirement life. To find your number, start with what you discovered from Steps 1 & 2:

  • Fixed income you’ll have coming in every month.
  • Total monthly or annual expenses.
  • The gap between your annual fixed income and your annual expenses is what needs to be filled from your portfolio.

Once you know your income gap, your “number” is the amount you need to reliably generate that income each month throughout retirement.


Step 5: Make any changes needed.

If you find that you have more than your “retirement number”, CONGRATS! Move on to step 6! But if you’re not quite there yet, you’re not alone. Regardless of where you start, with the right plan, you can find an achievable goal!


Step 6: Set up your paycheck strategy so you have the money you need each month without worry.

The best strategy for you depends on how much you have in your nest egg, usually in one of two approaches:

  • Golden Goose. If you have enough in your portfolio, you can invest for income, spend only dividends and interest without having to sell investments, and use your portfolio like a rental property.
  • If you don’t have enough to comfortably live on income alone, you’ll want to set up three buckets.
    • Your Safety Bucket is your reserve.
    • Your Income Bucket sends your monthly paycheck.
    • Your Growth Bucket invests the rest and is used to refill your Safety and Income buckets as needed.

Don’t forget about taxes! When it comes to your retirement income, every dollar you pay in unnecessary taxes is one less dollar available to support your ideal retirement life. See our Guide to Reducing Retirement Income Tax for more!


Step 7: Put your team in place.

Your ideal team will depend on how you plan to manage your finances in retirement. We usually see one of two approaches:

  • Do-It-Yourself. If you enjoy doing your own financial planning and have the time, tools, and expertise, you may be heading for the do-it-yourself route.
  • Partnership with Professionals. The right advising team can be the difference between a stress-filled or a stress-free retirement.

At Alterra, we help build your plan from start to finish, set up and manage your retirement paycheck strategies, and work with you to keep your plan on track with proactive reviews throughout the year so you can get back to living your life.


Step 8: Make a plan for your time!

Now that you have the financial plan to support your retired life, what will your retired life actually look like? You’ve spent your life up to this point building a business, crafting a career, raising a family, and honing valuable skills. Now where will that sense of purpose come from?

Your “Life Portfolio”, like your financial portfolio, should be diversified, including:

  • Continuing your career skills
  • Volunteering with causes you care about
  • Investing in family
  • Using hobbies as rest from your work, the way you did during your working years.

In 8 simple steps, you’ve taken your ideal retirement from a dream to a plan in action! Going it alone, however, doesn’t always feel simple, clear, or confident. But we can help! Visit How We Work to learn how our process can bring the clarity you need to step confidently into this exciting next phase of life!

Josh Whelan

Partner, Financial Advisor

About the Author

Josh sees his profession as a calling, not just a career. His motive for pursing financial planning was very personal. While working on a degree in marriage and family counseling, Josh’s father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Josh decided then and there to change career paths to help his family prepare for an uncertain financial future. Financial planning became his path to serving others.

The “Alterra” name was coined by joining the Latin roots “alter”, the origin of the word “altruism” with “terra” meaning earth or land. This name reflects the company philosophy of “clients before profits” and providing firmly grounded advice.

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