15 Smart Ways To Test Drive Your Retirement Plan Before It’s Too Late

Unlock financial peace of mind with these innovative retirement stress tests.
Updated May 8, 2024
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The drudgery of getting up each day to go to work, dealing with the frustration of traffic, and getting home after the sun goes down can propel anyone to think more readily about their retirement.

But do you have enough put away to pay for retirement? One way to find out is to test drive your retirement and see what it would be like. 

Here are some ways to take your retirement for a spin before you retire to make sure it's ready for the road.

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Live on your anticipated budget for a month

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How much money do you really need every month during retirement? The best way to find out is to live on your anticipated budget for a month. That’s hard to do for busy professionals, but it’s the easiest way to see what retirement could be like.

Once you’ve determined what you anticipate your retirement budget to be, spend some time adjusting what you’re spending now to be more in line with this. You’ll get a peek at what your financial life may look like.

Take a week off and stay home

Andrii Nekrasov/Adobe attractive man enjoying sun in balcony

For those who spend 40 hours a week behind a desk at work, taking a week off may be a good way to see what your daily life may be in retirement. Don’t go on vacation or make big plans for this time.

Instead, spend that time at home. What will you do? How soon will you get bored, or will it be a rewarding experience for you?

Initially, playing a few games of golf, catching up on TV shows, and spending some time at lunch with friends can be fulfilling. But will you be satisfied if this is all you do? What will you do to fill your time?

See what would happen if you need long-term medical care

ArtSys/Adobe professional therapist at the session

People are living longer now than before, but that brings a greater need for medical care. Fidelity estimates that the average couple retiring at 65 will spend $315,000 on medical expenses.

Imagine you're diagnosed with an illness, and your family can't take care of you. Do you have the financial means to make adjustments to your home or hire an in-home health aide? Can you afford an assisted-living home? 

You may already have long-term care insurance that could help. If not, it may be worth researching your options.

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Consider how often you would really eat out

Dan Dalton/KOTO/Adobe waiter serving fancy dishes to couple

Going out to lunch seems like a fantastic way to spend each afternoon, especially if you can catch up with friends. But it gets expensive.

If you spend $15 on lunch each day and head out five times a week, that’s $75. Don’t forget that that’s for one person, and over a month, it’s $300.

While that may seem affordable and worthwhile, it’s one of the simple components that must be included in your retirement budget if it’s something you’re likely to do.

Plan a simple trip

Davide Angelini/Adobe senior tourists reviewing map while traveling

One of the things many people say they hope to do during retirement is to travel. What is the actual cost of traveling, though, as a senior?

You don’t actually have to take a trip now, but you should plan one to see what the cost will be. Consider the expenses for getting there, food and transportation in the city you’ll be visiting, and must-have souvenirs. Or look into the cost of an organized tour or a cruise.

Then, consider how often you plan to do this each year. You might need to earn extra money if you take more elaborate trips frequently.

Consider how remote work may fit your life

Rido/Adobe businessman working from home

Remote work could become a priority for those who find that retirement isn’t busy enough or need to earn more money during retirement. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to do, though.

Try to work from home for a week right now. Explore what it means to your at-home life, how you'll manage your time, and how productive you can be. That could affect your decision to retire early and work from home instead.

Consider what a move closer to family may be like

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Here’s something you may have been dreaming about: moving closer to your children and grandchildren. That sounds ideal, but what's it like in reality?

To test drive this party of retirement, book a stay at a long-term hotel near your family members. Get an idea of the community and what it feels like to have the grandkids around all the time. Distance can be a good thing.

Determine what your retirement calling may be

Seventyfour/Adobe smiling young woman volunteering

What are your aspirations and goals for retirement? Do you want to learn a new skill or hobby? Perhaps you expect to be able to immerse yourself in volunteer work.

It’s not uncommon for someone entering retirement to have a long list of goals and expectations that don’t pan out.

Instead of putting all of your time into planning these goals, take a moment to live that life. Try out some hobbies. Invest some time in exploring the learning curve. It may not be right for you.

Every nonprofit organization needs volunteers. Offer your time now to see if that would be a good long-term commitment.

Create a budget based just on your Social Security income

Prostock-studio/Adobe senior man using laptop at home

You can learn what your expected Social Security income will be anytime by going to the Social Security Administration’s website and seeing your estimate. Take that one step further.

Build out your budget based on that value. If your investments don’t pan out, you’ll need to rely on this money. Consider how this affects your decision to retire. Should you have your mortgage paid off and your debt eliminated? Do you need more in savings?

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Create a written plan for what happens to your business

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If you’re one of the many who built a business during your working years, retirement may need careful consideration. Look beyond the financials to consider what could happen to your business.

Is there someone who can fill your shoes now, or do they need more training? What could happen to your business without you there to build and maintain key relationships with your employees and clients?

If you don’t have an exit plan that feels right, you may need to make some decisions before you move forward.

Consider the lavish retirement anyway

Grady Reese/peopleimages.com/Adobe happy couple on a boat

If you really want to spend your winters in Florida or plan to take a Mexican resort vacation (because you’ve likely worked for 40 years and deserve it), plan for this type of trip. What will it take financially to get to that point?

The best way to know is to take a luxury trip that you could see yourself taking a few times a year during your retirement.

We’re not talking about the basic trip across the country but the lavish trip you’ve dreamed about through those long meetings. Then, consider if you need to adjust your budget to allow for it.

Assess what full-time living with your spouse will be like

Prostock-studio/Adobe Couple watching TV

This is something many people don’t think about before retirement. Yet, it will impact your lifestyle.

Consider a week or two of living in retirement where the only other person you spend time with is your spouse, 24 hours a day. Analyze how this may impact your relationship and discuss it with your spouse.

Consider your grandchildren

deagreez/Adobe family celebrating thanksgiving

If you were to retire now, would you be expected to be the full-time babysitter for your children’s kids? Do you hope to be but haven’t discussed that with your adult children?

Either way, you should know what to expect if it will significantly affect your retirement lifestyle.

Consider how much time you will spend with your grandchildren, how much money you’ll need, and your other retirement plans. Just how involved will you be during retirement?

Evaluate your health care costs and risks

Nicholas Felix/peopleimages.com/Adobe apple with a senior woman

Consider your lifestyle, diet, and overall health now. How will this impact your well-being during retirement?

For example, could you make diet and fitness changes now that could reduce your risk of early health complications and disease onset? How will your health care costs and risks play out if you keep living as you are?

Discuss expectations with your spouse

InsideCreativeHouse/Adobe couple counting funds

Another valuable conversation to have to test drive your retirement is about expectations. Though you may have some concrete goals and beliefs about retirement, they may differ significantly from what your spouse expects.

A good plan here is to have a long conversation, consider goals and limitations, and discuss ways to alter those goals to achieve better results later.

Bottom line

InsideCreativeHouse/Adobe taking notes on laptop

Every one of these scenarios relies on a “what if” outcome. Yet, there's no way to know what could happen. As a result, it’s often beneficial to look a bit further and build in more financial stability beyond what you hope to occur.

You may want to build wealth to pad an emergency fund or increase your physical fitness to improve your health. Being prepared for retirement is the best way to make it a comfortable one for you.

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Author Details

Sandy Baker Sandy Baker is a has over 17 years of experience in the financial sector. Her experience includes website content, blogs, and social media. She’s worked with companies such as Realtor.com, Bankrate, TransUnion, Equifax, and Consumer Affairs.

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