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Countdown to Retirement

by Natalie Pine, Managing Partner, Briaud Financial Advisors

With countless students to support, articles to be published, conferences to prepare for, and research topics all clamoring for your attention, retirement is probably not top of mind. No matter the time you have until retirement, here’s a quick outline of what you can do to prepare.

If retirement is but a distant dream

  • Spend less than you make.

  • Pay down debt.

  • Maximize your 403(b) contributions.

  • Review your investments to ensure you are minimizing mutual fund fees and expenses.

  • Make use of your 457 plan, if possible.

If you are 10 years from retiring, then determine how much you should save for retirement …

  • Determine your net worth: The total of your assets that could be sold for cash minus all your debts.

  • Increase contributions to your retirement plans.

  • Continue to pay down debt, if applicable.

  • Estimate your sources of income and fixed expenses in retirement.

  • Assess probability of having enough money to retire in a 10-year time horizon (online tools or a fee-only advisor can help).

  • If retirement is unrealistic because the projected money is short, reduce spending and supercharge savings.

  • Rinse and repeat.

If you are 5 years from retiring

  • Consider where you will live in retirement. If it will be in a state with a high-income tax rate, then contribute to a Roth IRA rather than tax-deferred accounts.

  • Revisit your university savings plans (403(b)/457). Can you save more?

  • Start to think about what you will do in retirement. Those with a clear purpose tend to have a more successful retirement.

  • Evaluate investment returns, current savings, and reassess timeline.

  • Adjust asset allocation, if necessary, to reflect a 5-year time horizon.

  • Be on the lookout for favorable buyout opportunities. Consult a fee-only advisor or planner if you need help determining whether a buyout aligns with your goals.

Retirement is one year away

  • Pay close attention to the date. One additional month of employment could mean a 2% raise in your pension for the rest of your life!

  • The same applies to retiree health care. Review your retiree health insurance offered by the university. If not offered, review ACA and COBRA options.

  • Maximize tax-deferred retirement savings this year to minimize taxes.

  • If you are entitled to lump sum vacation pay, consider deferring it to a year after retirement, when your income will be lower.

  • For those age 65 or older, file for Medicare Part B and challenge your premiums if you will be in a significantly lower tax bracket after retirement.

  • Evaluate your need for Social Security. Deferring until 70 can greatly increase your benefit!

  • Create a spending plan with new sources of income. How and when will you pay yourself?

These steps may differ for your particular circumstances, but this is a good roadmap to get you on the right track. Natalie Pine is Managing Partner at Briaud Financial Advisors who have decades working with university professors. She can be contacted at

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