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Lean In To Retirement

5 Ways to Apply Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” Philosophy for your Retirement

Sheryl Sandberg’s bestselling book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead has been a hot topic since its release in March 2013 for its message of empowering women in their careers and personal lives.

I first heard Sheryl use the term “Lean In,” on a YouTube video of a commencement speech she did for Barnard in May 2011. Her speech grabbed me as if she had popped out of my computer monitor and said, “Hey you Kim, you better listen up.” This book is the first I’veread from a woman almost the same exact age as me. So much of what she said and felt in the book matched my own feelings and upbringing.

In order to understand “Lean In,” you have to understand what it is to lean back. Ever since college I’ve been guilty of leaning back. Prior to ever having a boyfriend, a husband, or kids, I’ve been planning my work life around them. Sandberg’s philosophy is so prevalent, I see it come up in conversations often in the middle of a retirement income review for a client. This led me to make a connection to the concept of “lean in” and how it can empower you with your retirement planning. Here are 5 steps you should take to “lean in” on your retirement and take control of your destination.

There are many people who can’t retire with the same comfortable standard of living they are accustomed to living during their working years. For those people, the phase in retirement option is a good alternative. Phasing in retirement is a way of gradually pulling back your work hours, earnings, and savings in your 60s, so you don’t have to start pulling from your retirement savings accounts until you are closer to age 70. This gives your retirement assets more time to “bake” and develop before you start stressing them by pulling money out of retirement accounts.

TechGirl Financial Tip: Instead of thinking of your retirement like a light switch that’s either on or off–it can be more like a dimmer switch, turning down work gradually while you turn the living up.

There are two important parts to leaning in your 50s. 1. This is your time to work hard and make yourself indispensable so that you will have more options to pull back in your 60s. 2. Save aggressively during your early- to late-50s because these typically are your best paying years of your career. By your mid 50s you should be approaching empty nest syndrome and can afford more time to dedicate to work.

TechGirl Financial Tip: This is about the same time in your life you will be tempted to spend a fortune on children’s college education expenses. Save more for yourself than you spend on your kids. (Should I repeat this?) Your kids can get loans and have a lifetime of income to earn, there are no loans or do-overs if you don’t get it right in retirement.

Understand how much money you can retire and live on for the remainder of your life comfortably - without running out of money. (Admit it, this is the biggest fear pre- and post-retirees have). Take time on this effort. You need to plan for what's expected and what is unexpected. If you do not have the inclination to do it yourself, seek help. This is an extremely important step to get right.

TechGirl Financial Tip: In case you missed it, this is crucial - I cannot stress it enough! Do the hard work now and look at your budget, plan for medical expenses and long term care scenarios - you know, garbage in, garbage out!

What next? Once you’ve made yourself indispensable, create your exit strategy – you just may be shocked at how willing your manager is to have you stay on–on your terms. Remember, Marissa Mayer became CEO of Yahoo when she was pregnant. Wow! Consider job sharing and consulting, too.

TechGirl Financial Tip: You have to get the five years before and five years after retirement right financially – it sets the stage for the rest of your retirement.

As you pull away hours worked, you can supplement the money not earned by saving less in your retirement plans. Practice retirement and get an idea of how you want to live your life for the rest of it. When you reach full retirement age for Social Security you may pull back more hours and supplement income with Social Security.

TechGirl Financial Tip: Make sure you understand all your Social Security options before taking it. You can be penalized for taking it early, and the penalty may be even greater if you are still working.

Don’t lean back, lean in and take control of your financial and personal destiny. What do you think? Is this an easier way of looking at how to retire?

Remember, things are possible when you plan, stay disciplined, and are consistent in progressing to your goals. If you would like to see how a plan like this might be customized for you, let’s talk!

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