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Retirement finances change on a regular basis, and you need to be prepared for them. Income tax and estate tax laws change, as do benefits such as Medicare and Social Security. Estate planning, annuities, the investment markets and the economy all evolve over time.

Given the changing nature of retirement, Americans are likely to encounter some surprises as they embark on the next stage of their life. However, the experiences of already-retired Americans can offer insight into how their expectations, concerns and goals prior to retirement changed once they were actually retired.

Advice From the Retired

“Be prepared for the reality that things will change in your life as you grow older,” said Angie O’Leary, head of wealth planning at RBC Wealth Management-U.S.

“A key is to retain a future-focused and flexible plan that can be adapted to meet the challenges and opportunities that occur through a long period in retirement.”

Living Longer

Perhaps the biggest factor that leads to changes during retirement is how we are living longer than ever before. For an average couple who are age 65, there’s close to a 50-percent chance at least one spouse will live to age 94. There’s a 25-percent chance of one living to at least 98. This could mean a retirement spanning decades, especially if you are aiming for an early retirement.

These factors also impact our retirement planning.

The investments we make as a 60-year old today are different than one would 30 years ago. This is because the money will likely need to last longer. New regulations, such as the SECURE Act, are being introduced for this reason.

If you turned 70½ after December 31, 2019, you can now wait until you turn 72 to begin taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from your retirement account.

Changing Priorities

Lifestyle changes will also impact your golden years. Our priorities change from the time we start planning for retirement to our actual retirement itself.

For example, a survey by RBC Wealth Management found Baby Boomers who were yet to retire listed travel as their top goal once they leave the workforce. However, for those already in retirement, top priorities include spending time with family, maintaining an active lifestyle, and volunteering.

The survey also found that prior to retirement, financial issues such as the risk of outliving assets and funding health care later in life are top of mind. For those already retired, priorities change to more holistic matters such as maintaining a quality of life, minimizing the risk of mental or physical decline, and not wanting to become a burden to their families.

How confident are you that you’re truly prepared for what retirement may throw your way?

Those with a plan are less likely to be blindsided by a change in direction that can easily occur over the course of a long retirement. A solid retirement plan will help you prepare for unexpected changes, and give you the freedom to identify solutions to suit your lifestyle as your circumstances evolve.