6 important things to do when turning 65 – A Retirement Checklist 

Turning 65 – A Retirement Checklist


Are your turning 65 soon? Turning 65 is a major milestone and pivotal age for your retirement planning. Not only is this an important age for government programs like Medicare and Social Security, but it’s also a perfect time to check other parts of your financial plan, particularly if you’re about to retire. Here are 6 important things to do as you get closer to your 65th birthday to make sure this year and the many years that follow are amazing!


  1. Prepare for Medicare
  2. Consider Long Term Care Insurance
  3. Review your Social Security Benefits
  4. Review Retirement Accounts
  5. Update Estate Planning Documents
  6. Get Tax Breaks


1. Prepare for Medicare


Medicare is the most common form of health care coverage for older Americans. The program has been in existence since 1965 and provides a way for seniors to have their health needs taken care of after they retire from the workforce.


What is Medicare?


Medicare is basically the federal government’s health insurance program for people 65 or older (or younger with disabilities). Medicare is primarily funded by payroll taxes paid by most employees, employers, and people who are self-employed. Funds are paid through the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund held by the U.S. Treasury.


When can I enroll in Medicare?


Starting 3 months before the month you turn 65, you are eligible to enroll in Medicare, you can also sign up during your birthday month and the three months following your 65th birthday. Essentially, you have a seven-month window to sign up for Medicare. Be mindful of your timing and enrollment because Medicare charges several late-enrollment penalties.


What does Medicare cover?


Medicare benefits vary depending on the enrollment plan you choose. Medicare is made up of four enrollment plans:  Medicare Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D.


Here is a quick breakdown of the four parts of Medicare:


Medicare Part A: Know as the Original Medicare, Part A covers inpatient hospital care, home health, nursing, and hospice care. Part A is typically paired with Medicare Part B.

Medicare Part B: Still considered part of the Original Medicare, Part B helps cover doctor’s visits, lab work, diagnostic and preventative care, and mental health. It does not include dental and vision benefits.

Medicare Part C: This option offers traditional Medicare coverage but includes more coverage for routine healthcare that you use every day, routine dental care, vision care, and hearing. Plus, it covers wellness programs and fitness memberships. Medicare Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage and is a form of private insurance. Note that you will not be automatically enrolled in these benefits.

Medicare Part D: Medicare Part D is a stand-alone plan provided through private insurers that covers the costs of prescription drugs.  Most people will need Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. Even if you’re fortunate enough to be in good health now, you may need significant prescription drugs in the future.

Age 65 Medicare


While Medicare is great it’s not going to cover all your medical expenses. You’ll still be responsible for co-payments and deductibles just like on your employer’s health plan, and they can add up quickly.

To offset these expenses, a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) insurance policy could be a good option as well. Medigap is offered by private insurance companies and covers such as co-payments, deductibles, and health care if you travel outside the U.S.


How can I enroll in Medicare?


For most people, applying for Medicare is a straightforward process. If you already receive retirement benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board, you’ll be signed up automatically for Part A and Part B.

If you aren’t receiving retirement benefits, and you don’t have health coverage through an employer or spouse’s employer, you will need to apply for Medicare during your 7-month enrollment window.

You can sign up for Medicare online, by phone, or in-person at a Social Security office.

Please note that if you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) or health insurance based on current employment, you may want to ask your HR office or insurance company how signing up for Medicare will affect you.


2. Consider Long Term Care Insurance


Another prudent thing to do when you are turning 65 is to consider your long-term care insurance options before retirement.


What is long-term care insurance?


The goal of long-term care is to help you maintain your daily life as you age. It helps to provide care if you are unable to perform daily activities on your own. It can include care in your home, nursing home, or assisted living facility.  The need for long-term care may result from unforeseen illnesses, accidents, and other chronic conditions associated with aging.

Medicare often does not provide long-term care coverage, so it is a good idea to factor this additional coverage in.


Why do I need long-term care insurance?


While it may be hard to imagine needing long-term care now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care service in their lifetime.

Unfortunately, long-term care coverage is often hindsight, only thinking about it once it is needed. Planning for it now can help you access better quality care quickly when you need it and help you and your family avoid costly claims.


How do I get long-term care insurance?


First, talk with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ about whether long-term care insurance makes sense for you. Coverage can be complex and expensive. A good Financial Advisor can help guide you to a plan that is right for you.

Most people buy their long-term care insurance through a financial advisor, however, some states offer State Partnership Programs and more employers are offering long-term care as a voluntary benefit.

It is important to start shopping before you would need coverage. While you can’t predict the future, if you wait until you are well into retirement and already having medical issues, you may be turned down or the premiums may be too high to make it a feasible option.


3. Review your Social Security Benefits


If you haven’t yet started to collect Social Security, your 65th birthday is a great time to review your social security strategy to help you maximize your benefits.


Age 65 Social Security


When can I take Social Security?


The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers the full retirement age is 66 if you were born from 1943 to 1954. The full retirement age increases gradually if you were born from 1955 to 1960 until it reaches 67. For anyone born in 1960 or later, full retirement benefits are payable at age 67.

In deciding when to start receiving Social Security retirement benefits, you need to consider your personal situation.


How can I maximize my Social Security Benefit?


Turning 65 might raise questions about how to maximize your Social Security befits in retirement. Rightfully so. Receiving benefits early can reduce your payments, however, the flip side is also true. If you’re still working or have savings that will allow you to wait a while on receiving benefits, your eventual payments will be higher. Your benefits can stand to grow 8% a year if you delay until age 70. Plus, cost of living adjustments (COLA) will also be included in that increase.

In addition to delaying receiving your benefits, it is important to make sure all your years of work have been counted. SSA calculates your benefits based on the 35 years in which you earn the most. If you haven’t clocked in 35 years, or the SSA doesn’t have those years recorded, it could hurt you.

Be sure to create a “My Social Security” account and check to make sure your work history is accurately depicted. It is wise to download and check your social security statement annually and update personal information as needed.

Another potential boost in your benefit can come from claiming spousal payments.  If you were married for at least 10 years, you can claim Social Security benefits based on an ex-spouse’s work record.

Everyone’s financial situation is different, but it can be helpful to have a plan for how you’re going to approach Social Security before you turn 65.


4. Review Retirement Accounts


Even if you are not planning to retire soon, now (and every quarter for that matter) is a good time to check in on your retirement accounts. Is your portfolio allocated in a way that lines up with your target retirement date? When is the last time you met with your financial advisor? Do you need to catch up a little?  Do you have a plan for your Required Minimum Distributions?

Meeting with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ can help you evaluate your risk tolerance in comparison to your retirement goals, make sure your investments are aligned to help you retire when you want, and make a plan for you to maintain the lifestyle you want in retirement.

A financial advisor can also help with planning for 401(k) catch-up contributions, RMDs, early withdrawals, or completing a Mega Backdoor Roth IRA.

A big hurdle as retirement approaches is often all the homework you have to do. Penalties, enrollments, coverage gaps, deadlines, etc. A great financial advisor can help guide you through this process.

If you are wondering how to find a great financial advisor, we have put a simple guide here. Or, we would love for you to schedule an appointment now to meet with one of our CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERs™.


5. Update Estate Planning Documents


The next item on the retirement checklist of important things to do when Turning 65 is to get your estate planning documents and legal ducks in a row. If you do not yet have an estate plan, will, medical directive, or financial power of attorney, it is time to get those in order. It is not too late! If you do have them, take some time to update them.

Have you had recent changes in personal circumstances? Do you need to update beneficiaries? Reviewing your plan at regular intervals, in addition to major life events, will help ensure that your assets and legacy are passed on in accordance with your wishes and that your beneficiaries receive their benefits as smoothly as possible.

Further, it is also a good idea to take inventory and organize all your financial documents. Keep a list of all your accounts (banking and investment), insurance, and estate documents as well as key contact information in a safe place. Make note of any safety deposit boxes you have. Keeping all this info organized and in one place will be a big help to your loved ones during a difficult time.

You’ll feel great knowing that you and your family are prepared


6. Get Tax Breaks


Finally, don’t let medicare be the only gift to you when you turn 65. Starting in the year you turn 65, you qualify for a larger standard deduction when you file your federal income tax return. You may also qualify for extra state or local tax breaks at age 65.

Many states also offer senior property tax exemptions as well. For example, in Colorado for those who qualify, 50 percent of the first $200,000 of the actual value of the applicant’s primary residence is exempted. Check with your local tax assessor to see what property tax breaks may be available to you.


Bonus – Turning 65 Birthday Advice


Relax and enjoy it. As much as turning 65 is a time to plan for retirement, it is also a time to celebrate.

If you plan to indulge in a much-deserved tropical getaway or a quick trip to visit your grandchildren, you may be able to take advantage of new travel discounts. Delta, American, and United Airlines all offer senior discounts on selected flights. Additionally, many hotels, car rental companies, and cruise lines all also offer senior discounts. So treat yourself!

Happy 65th! Cheers to many more!

Have more questions? We’d love to talk. You can reach us at 719-394-3900 or you can schedule a call here!

Why you need titling, not just a will

Titling, wills and trusts


A will helps determine what happens to your assets after you die. In fact, it may be one of the most important documents you have in your lifetime. However, there is a lot more than just a will that you will need if you want to distribute your assets to the best of your wishes, as well as avoiding a probate court from interpreting your will and deciding who gets what. 

A will is necessary, but many people do not know that the way a property is titled actually supersedes what is written in the will. By law, whoever is the beneficiary listed on an account or property, that asset will be given to that person, no matter what the will says. 

This is an overview of estate distribution, estate vehicles, and how to properly title your accounts to make for an easy transition to your heirs and legatees (aka – the people you love). All while avoiding the headache of probate court. 

Let’s go over the basics of titling, the will, and trusts.


The Will and Probate Court


Probate court is a system that deals with the property and debts of a decedent (a person who has died). Its role is to assure that their debts are paid. In addition to ensuring any remaining assets are distributed according to the will. When a person dies, it is up to the court and the executor to distribute the assets according to the probate declaration. 

Probate court can take up to 9 – 15 months to determine and distribute assets to heirs. The costs of probate court can be up to 7-9% of the total amount of the estate. If you only have a will without titling your accounts, your estate is susceptible to the interpretations of the state. Thus, can lead to your estate being distributed against your wishes. Many people seek ways to avoid probate as the time and cost can greatly harm and inconvenience their estate and their heirs. 

There are several ways to avoid assets going through probate. They are trusts, legal titling, and beneficiaries by contract.


The Will and Titling


A valid will is extremely important to have because it will give instructions to the court about how your assets will be distributed. 

When someone dies with a valid will, they will die “Testate” meaning their assets will transfer through the probate court to their heirs and legatees. A legatee is an heir that is specifically named in the will. 

If you do not have a valid will, you will die “Intestate” which means the courts will determine who will receive your property based on closest familial relation. 

If you do not have a will or a known family, your assets will be gifted to the state! As an example of how common this is, the state of Colorado alone is holding over $400 million in unclaimed money from its residents. If your desires are to benefit someone outside of your immediate family, you would need a will to state this. 

Wills are the basic tool for estate planning, but they are susceptible to the interpretation of the courts. Wills must go through probate. Which may allow your heirs to potentially negate who you named in your will if it does not seem appropriate or valid for any reason. A will can be argued by the courts and the heirs, so it is not completely secure. If any property is left out of the will, that would also be subject to the interpretation of the court. 


Titles by Law


Titles are very useful in making a very simple statement of who is the owner of the asset and who is the beneficiary. When you title an account or asset, the person that you have listed can either be part-owner of that asset or the beneficiary. 

When a couple buys a home jointly, the couple owns an equal share of the house and they cannot do anything with it without the other’s permission. If one of the spouses were to die, the other surviving spouse would gain 100% of the value. Except for property titled as “Community Property”, all titles supersede the will.


Ways to title and asset


There are many ways to title an asset. This is how they all work and what makes each different.

  1. Fee Simple: The account is titled in your name only. It will have to pass by the will.
  2. Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS): Pass by law directly to surviving account holder when the first account holder dies. This title will supersede the will.
  3. Tenants in Common: Titling is split by the amount of ownership contribution proportionally. The other holder does NOT have the ability to own your part if you decease. This titling is used for business partners that contribute to assets together but do not want their assets to pass to each other.
  4. Tenants by Entirety: Similar to JTWROS, but only for married spouses. Passes 100% to the surviving spouse by law.
  5. Community Property: If you live in a “Community Property” state, each spouse independently owns 50% of an asset and can do with it whatever they please. This does NOT necessarily transfer to the spouse as does JTWROS. You can list the heir to whoever you please. The states that use Community Property instead of JTWROS or Tenants by Entirety are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. If you live in these states, you will have to plan differently for distributing your property and assets. Seek estate counsel from an estate planner to effectively protect and direct your assets to your wishes.


Titles by Contract


There are many accounts that someone cannot list another person as the owner of the account. For example, you cannot have your spouse titled on your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or 401(k), because it is a single-person account. However, you can add your loved ones to your account as beneficiaries.

Interestingly, only you can have access to your individual accounts even if you are married. These types of accounts are not passed by “Law” as joint accounts are, but are passed by contract; which asks who is the listed beneficiary on the account. Passing by contract avoids probate and always supersedes the will. It is crucial to not only update your will with major life changes but to review your beneficiaries as well. 

If an ex-spouse is listed as the beneficiary of your IRA, your IRA will pass to your ex-spouse. Regardless if the updated will directs your IRA to your children. There is no way for the court to interject in this mistake because it never goes to Probate Court. 

Retirement accounts such as IRA’s and 401(k)’s use beneficiaries. For bank accounts, you will need to add a Transfer on Death (TOD) to your account. A TOD will be the individual or charity that the account will transfer to. Titles by contract are used for financial accounts. For real assets, such as homes, cars, and property, these assets must be listed in the will or stated in a trust.

Here is an infographic that demonstrates assets passing through and around the probate process: 

Wills and Titling




A trust is a vehicle that a person (grantor) makes to be held in trust by the trustee, for the benefit of the beneficiary. A trust is a useful arrangement that allows the grantor and the trust to avoid probate. It also allows the grantor to control the trust beyond the grave.

Trusts were once extremely necessary for anyone that had over $1 million in total assets. In 2002, your estate would be taxed at 50% of any amount over $1 million! Families leverage trusts to move money out of their estate and help protect their assets for their beneficiaries. 

This is no longer the case, as the current credit has been raised to $11 million. Thus, protecting most people from having to pay any “Death Tax”. Trusts are still popular and useful because they are taxed as their own entity. They are shielded from the estate’s creditors. Also, they can distribute money periodically to its heirs instead of a lump sum payout through the will. 




The trust can allow for contingencies such as divorces and deaths that could occur in the future. For example, if a mother was concerned that her children may spend their inheritance if she were to die, she could establish a trust that would that only distribute 10% of its assets to the heirs each year. This trust declaration would still benefit her children. However, it would make sure that they would not spend it immediately. 

Trusts are also useful to implement when a parent may be worried that their child may divorce a partner in the future. If the father wrote a will, the proceeds could be split between the spouses upon divorce. In a trust, the parent could stipulate that only their child would receive 100% of the benefit if a divorce were to occur.

This is “Controlling the Estate Beyond the Grave”.  It’s just one example of the various tools a trust can have for a person to always make sure their money is going where they intended it to go.

The trust also protects one’s assets from the claims of creditors. A probate court by law awards the estate’s creditors first and then distributes what is left to the heirs. A trust protects the assets from creditors. It also distributes them immediately to your heirs or listed charities as the trust stipulates. If a trust seems like a good tool for your specific estate plan, a lawyer or estate planner can help you build a trust as the cornerstone of your estate plan. 


The Bottom Line


There are various tools and vehicles you can use to direct your assets and estate when you die. To recap, the four ways that assets pass from the decedent’s estate to their heirs and legatees. By the will and probate, by law of titling, by contract of beneficiary, and by the terms of the trust. 

Each one has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, the will is very simple and inexpensive to create but will be subject to the probate court. A trust will have the advantage of avoiding probate, but are can be expensive and convoluted in nature. Further, real assets like your house, cars, and property typically cannot have a listed beneficiary and must pass through the will or a trust. 

The most important lesson is to review your accounts, titling, and estate documents to ensure they are all up to date and clearly represent your best wishes. Speak with an estate planner that you trust to help guide you.


Where a Financial Advisor comes in


Estate planning is an often overlooked aspect of financial planning. However, a financial advisor can help play a major role, working in conjunction with your estate planner.  First, they can help keep your beneficiaries up to date on your investment accounts. They can help advise you on how certain life changes may impact your estate plan, most specifically retirement. Finally, if you do not have a will or estate plan in place that can help you find a good one.  We knew many great estate planners that can help you get your will and titling done right.  Want to get started? Schedule a free consultation call today.


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