Offered only to employees who work in higher education, the New Jersey Alternate Benefit Program (ABP) is a comprehensive retirement package that includes a variety of benefits, along with life insurance and disability coverage for everybody who qualifies.
The NJ ABP Retirement Checklist
If you or a loved one are a qualifying member of ABP, you’ll want to know what to expect as your retirement date approaches. But you don’t have to be a bystander when preparing for the big day. You can also be proactive in the weeks and months leading up to your retirement to ensure you experience a smooth transition and have a happy start to this brand new chapter in your life.
Here’s a NJ ABP retirement checklist which you can use to navigate the retirement process, making it as simple and easy as possible.
6-8 Months Before Retirement
Without taking the time to prepare for your new lifestyle, you might find yourself overwhelmed by all the changes taking place at once. That’s why it’s so important to start thinking about these things well in-advance, giving yourself at least 6 months to prepare physically, emotionally and financially for what’s ahead.
Know What You’ve Got
When you know what your debts and assets are, you are able to take control and plan your financial future. If it’s been a while since you went through all of your documents and calculated the grand total, now would be the perfect time to do so.
Once you have assessed your situation, take care of any outstanding debts or other major expenses while you’re still getting a paycheck. Then, consider talking to a financial planner to optimize your investments and lower your overall risk before you retire.
Create a Budget
Going from collecting a regular paycheck to living on a fixed income can be an unsettling change for many people, even if you have carefully planned your retirement for decades. You will also inherit a new set of responsibilities such as taking care of your own health insurance and planning your estate. Prepare for your new financial responsibilities by doing the following:
- Figure out how much your total monthly income will be.
- Calculate all of your ongoing financial needs.
- Find gaps to fill in with your investments or personal assets.
- Explore your life insurance options and include any associated costs.
- Talk to a financial planner to create a long-term strategy.
Designing a solid budget is one of the most important items on the NJ ABP retirement checklist. If you are unsure about your options, talk to your financial advisor(s) to help you sort out the details.
4-6 Months Before Retirement
The NJ ABP retirement checklist recommends taking the following actions 4 to 6 months prior to your retirement date.
Start Stocking Up
If you want to add any extra padding to your nest egg, now is the time to do it. You can put the additional funds back into your portfolio or stash it away to fatten your emergency cash reserve.
One of the most important aspects of retirement planning is to expect the unexpected. Saving up extra money right now will give some wiggle room so you can manage any unplanned expenses that come your way.
Plan for Social Security
In addition to what you were able to save up during your career, you will have access to social security benefits that can help you stay ahead of monthly expenses. However, the longer you wait to collect your social security, the more you will receive once you put in your claim.
If you wait to receive Social Security, you will be eligible to receive a higher percentage of your benefits and will also be provided with delayed retirement credits. If waiting to claim your benefits is an option for you, it will definitely pay off. Talk to your financial advisor to figure out which decision is right for you.
3 Months Before Retirement
The big day is almost here and it’s time to tie up any loose ends. Here’s what the NJ ABP retirement checklist suggests you should do three months preceding your retirement.
Sign-up for Medicaid (if possible)
Now that you are about to be responsible for your own health care expenses, it’s a good time to look at the options available to you. If eligible, you can consider signing up for Medicaid which requires that you be 65 years or older. If medicaid isn’t an option for you right now, talk to your financial advisor about finding a health care plan that works for you.
Grow Your Network
Contrary to what many people think, you shouldn’t stop making connections and growing your network just because you are no longer working full-time. Actually, retirees can benefit greatly from growing their network before and after making the transition to retirement. It can also help you to stay active in your community, giving you a chance to socialize and bounce ideas off of people since you will no longer have your co-workers to interact with on a daily basis.
1 Month Before Retirement
Finally, your retirement is only weeks away. Here’s the last checkpoints for the NJ ABP retirement checklist.
Consider Part-time Retirement
Naturally, you can’t wait to stop working. No more alarm clock at 7 a.m. No more stressful commutes. No more answering to the higher-ups. You get to do whatever you want with your time. Sounds like a dream come true, right?
The reality is, while you might enjoy lazing around for first few weeks, you’ll quickly find out you need activities to fill your time and bring meaning to your life. A part-time job is the perfect way to continue contributing your work to society without feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities of a full-time position.
Discover New Hobbies
Many retirees struggle with having too much time on their hands. Even if you are working part-time, you’ll still have plenty of extra time to fill. Don’t wait until you’re bored out of your mind to find and start a new hobby. Here’s some ideas to get the creative juices flowing:
- Volunteer at local organizations.
- Take painting, drawing or sculpting classes.
- Learn how to cook exotic foods.
- Travel locally or abroad.
- Write a book and self-publish it.
- Exercise and perform other physical activities.
- Join a community theater group.
- Spend more time in nature (hiking, camping, etc.).
- Reconnect with old friends and family.
Some of these hobbies can be turned into extra income, while also being a great source of pride and fulfillment. After you retire, the world is your oyster. Don’t miss the opportunity to discover yourself all over again.
Planning Your Golden Years
You have carefully saved up for the last 30 years. Don’t let a few last minute details hold you back from living the retirement you deserve. Even though there are many steps to take in the months prior to your retirement, you can stay ahead of the curve by organizing and prioritizing your responsibilities. And if you have questions or concerns about the process, make sure to reach out to your financial advisor(s) who will help you navigate the waters.