Top 5 Must-Ask, Pre-Retirement Questions for All Baby Boomers

11/10/2015 04:53 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Let's create the ultimate plan on how to spend your retirement years:

We always strategize when we're young.

That includes what school to attend, what to study, and what career to embark on. Many think about getting married and how many children they will have - even before they meet the right one.

An Oregon-based gerontologist says we should have the same approach as we face the last couple of decades of our lives, too. Vassar Byrd, CEO of Rose Villa Senior Living, answers the top five questions Baby Boomers should consider sooner rather than later for retirement planning.

 

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO LIVE?

 

Whether you would like to remain in your own home or retire in an alternative or traditional retirement community, there are many factors to consider and arrangements to be made, Byrd says. Staying home might require hiring additional help, such as a gardener or dog-walker, while varying levels and types of retirement community options now exist, from the village movement to alternative retirement options and retirement cities.

"I hear all of the time when people are thinking about moving to a community is they say, 'I don't want to leave my house' because they associate it with independence," Byrd says. "In the past, that's where you built your kingdom and raised your kids. You're the king of the castle, but as you get older and particularly any time after 65, your house can become a millstone in some respects if you have health issues."

Byrd says she's seen it with people in their 80s and 90s and how their kids will say how their parents have changed. It's because they didn't see anyone and had only TV for company. They don't eat well because they're not sharing a meal with someone.

"Where you want to live is a big issue for most people, and they have a hard time envisioning what it's like to be older. From 50 to 70 and from 60 to 80, those two decades are intensively transformative, and it's very hard what it's like to be like," Byrd says. "Do you want to stay in your own home or maybe be in a community where you have friends and people to share activities and share meals with?"

 

What's most important to you?

 

Perhaps you love the outdoors or want the ability to access local amenities on foot, or retiring to sand and sun are a top priority for you. Your wants and needs for leisure activities should be considered when identifying your best retirement options.

"You need to decide if you want to be downtown where the action is and the opera is right outside of your door," Byrd said. "That's a different level of priority than someone who has been a fisherman or who likes to hike, garden or BBQ all the time. It really depends on what's important to you. You have to think about what makes you happy every day. Is it being in 80 degrees? Do you need to go in your sandals all year long? Whatever the answer is the answer. You can't take anything for granted. It's really an opportunity to think long and hard about who you are and what you want and how the arrangements can be made so you will be successful in those environments."

 

Who is on your care team?

 

Your children may not be willing or able to take on the responsibility of caring for you, perhaps due to distance and so having this conversation is imperative, Byrd says. You should also identify a doctor that's at least 10 years younger than you as well as an additional team members to avoid being left without a medical professional that you know and trust, she says.

"You can't do it all by yourself," Byrd says. "It gets harder as you get older and there's more stuff that you have to consider. Do you need someone to take care of your garden or walk your dog, get the groceries, help you get dressed, or help you which medication to take."

Byrd says you need to ask do you need a new doctor, lawyer or accountant to be there when you get older. It's harder to make relationships happen the older you are, he says.

"You want people knowing you," Byrd says. "You don't want to show up in a lawyer's office when you're 80 talking about your estate planning. It's far better to have known that person for a number of years so they can do what you want and you can be confident that they know who you are. But nobody thinks about that stuff. You need to ask how I can make sure I'm still the boss of my own life with a team helping me do what I want to do."

Byrd says 60 is a good age for that when you have a better idea of your kids and family situation. You need to have a plan by no later than 70.

"It doesn't matter how healthy you've been you've been your whole life, once you hit 80, anything can happen any day," Byrd says.

 

How do you maintain your independence?

 

Being proactive now, prior to a crisis, will lead to a better retirement. Consider your options and identify how you would like to live your life in retirement, Byrd says.

"This really is about being proactive and fearless. I am dealing with people who have looked at the future and see the promise and opportunity there," Byrd says. "They can let go of all of the things they have done before and are ready to take charge of the next period. They have done their research, gotten ready with their finances and talked to their family. Most of these folks are transparent. They got their health care power of attorney dialed in. Their kids are dialed in and before any of these crises happen, they guarantee their independence because they made those decision. Everyone says I will do that when I need it, and I say that's too late."

 

What will make you personally fulfilled?

 

When you identify what's important to you, it's way beyond your health, Byrd says. People cite social relationships and how important that is to their health and wellbeing. It's important to have close friends but it's more than that, she says.

What does your network look like? As working people, we have all kinds of networks. There are lots of ways to connect. Once you take the working that part out, you have to be far more intentional in figuring out your place in the world and where the circle of influence and interests are and how do they overlap."

Byrd says everything from book clubs to travel clubs to taking a French class would be part of that, and she says people need to be in the habit of doing what they love and don't ever let their age tell them they're too old to do something.

"I have experience with 80-year-old women learning how to swim for the first time," Byrd says. "It's pretty cool when you think about this time in your life when you finally have the opportunity and time to do a few things you always wanted to do. You want to eat right and exercise and all of the things you should be doing, think about what you want to do with your crazy life. What can you achieve that's going to make you think?"

Byrd says people talk about young people being full of promise. That's true but so are people as they enter the last chapters of their life.

"They are so full of promise because they are coming to that with so much experience, and they have a lot of courage and bravery. They are smart, tough and funny and that's pretty intense when you think about that as an opportunity."

Visit NowItCounts.com, The Destination for Americans 50+ for stories that matter to you covering financial, health, beauty, style, travel, news, lifestyle, food, entertainment and sports.