Boomers Can Follow Bills.com's 10-Year Countdown to Plan Financially Healthy Retirement

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10 steps lay out retirement planning, year by year.

Millions of baby boomers are lined up to join the ranks of America's retirees, but many of them haven't done the planning they should, according to Brad Stroh, co-founder and co-CEO of Bills.com, a free online consumer portal that offers personal finance resources for all Americans.

In fact, a recent study found that nearly one-third of boomers haven't saved enough for their retirement. (Source: Boston College Center for Retirement Research)

For individuals who are heading into retirement, Bills.com has prepared a 10-year countdown of considerations to help them plan to protect their financial future.

1. 10 Years to Go: Make a plan. Evaluate assets and debts. Check an online retirement calculator to determine how much savings you'll need to pay for your retirement needs. Have you saved enough? Do you have excessive debt? Compare where you are with where you need to be.

2. 9 Years to Go: Have disability insurance in place to protect your income while you are working. Most employers provide this coverage. If they don't, individuals can obtain it themselves until retirement age.

3. 8 Years to Go: Is your home paid off? A mortgage-free home can be a tremendous asset for retirement, both because it frees up a housing payment and because it provides a resource for cash flow through a reverse mortgage if necessary. Make a plan to accelerate paying off the home, if possible, by applying financial bonuses, raises and other expenses to additional principal payments.

4. 7 Years to Go: Build a financial cushion. Fully fund retirement savings. Individuals age 50 and over whose employers' plans allow can make "catch-up" payments, which allow for greater annual contributions than previously to an IRA. Build an emergency fund of six months' expenses in an accessible account.

5. 6 Years to Go: Purchase long-term-care insurance coverage. This insurance covers expenses, at home or in a care facility, that are not covered by health insurance or Medicare. Consult a financial planner or research to find the right policy. The younger you are when you purchase coverage, the better your price, so do not delay.

6. 5 Years to Go: Fully understand your options. Get an updated estimate of your Social Security income at http://www.ssa.gov/planners/calculators.htm. Check with your employer's human resources department to be sure you clearly understand your pension. Review all your investments, including former employers' pensions.

7. 4 Years to Go: Pay off debts. Eliminate credit card debt. Eliminate consumer debt, whether personal loans, loans from your children's education or car loans.

8. 3 Years to Go: Evaluate life insurance needs. If you are paying premiums on a large life insurance policy, but no longer are supporting dependents, judge whether you should redirect those payments to another source.

9. 2 Years to Go: Plan your retirement lifestyle. Will you work part-time, travel, pursue a hobby? Create your retirement budget. Begin living on what you anticipate your post-retirement income will be. A good rule of thumb is 85 percent of current income. Save the rest of your income, or use it to finish off debt.

10. 1 Year to Go: Apply for Medicare. Recipients must sign up for Medicare as close to their 65th birthday as possible. The Social Security Administration recommends applying for Medicare three months before you turn 65, as some benefits decrease if the coverage is not selected as early as possible.

"By following a good 10-year plan for retirement, you can look out for number one -- and protect the financial well-being that will make your golden years shine," Stroh said.

Based in San Mateo, Calif., Bills.com is a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues and comparison shop for products and services including credit cards, debt relief assistance, insurance, mortgages and other loans. The company blogs about consumer finance issues at http://www.bills.com/blog. Since 2002, Bills.com has served more than 30,000 customers nationwide while managing more than $500 million in consumer debt. Bills.com is a division of Freedom Financial Network, LLC, whose co-founders and CEOs, Andrew Housser and Brad Stroh, have been named Northern California finalists in Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

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