A New Season: Empty-Nesters


This year the fall season took a different turn than the past eighteen and it wasn’t associated with the weather.  My youngest child was college bound for his freshman year.  How did that happen?  It was a mad rush from high school graduation festivities in June to college move in day in August.  The reality of an empty nest began to set in as my husband and I drove home leaving our son to settle into his new digs.  Our conversation took many expected turns reminiscing about the past and looking forward to the future.  

This new chapter we surmised was as an opportunity to put some additional focus on our life goals including a “catch-up” sprint to shore up retirement savings. More questions than answers surfaced.  Should we downsize, take a big trip, save more, spend more, double up on mortgage payments, or put a finer point on our expectations for the future?  Perhaps you can relate to this milestone in life. 

The following Empty Nest Checklist can help to organize thoughts and prioritize action steps:

  1. Revisit the big picture.  Make time to talk about lifestyle changes you’re thinking about, along with their financial impact. Think of it like a test drive for your retirement years. While you are at it, give your financial plan a fresh look. Celebrate successes, clarify goals and identify potential gaps.

  2. Consider your finances.  Updating your monthly budget is a good first step.  Putting money you were using to support children toward larger financial goals like paying down your mortgage and boosting retirement savings may be an option with surprising benefits.

  3. Review investments.  The status quo may not meet your future needs.  Your financial advisor can help with a review of retirement savings accounts.  Learning how your savings can generate income in retirement helps financial decision making during this new chapter. 

  4. Update your goals and need for insurance.  The bottom line is to make sure that existing insurance policies still make sense for your situation.  If your mortgage is paid off and dependents are now independent you may want to reassess your coverage.

Goals change at every stage of life, so regularly reviewing your plans is an important step. Revisiting the basics can build confidence as you plan for tomorrow. Reconciling your next steps as empty nesters is essential to enjoying all that is to come. Don’t forget to celebrate each milestone you’ve achieved along the way and put in place a plan for what comes next.

Laurie Renchik, CFP®, MBA is a Partner and Senior Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® In addition to working with women who are in the midst of a transition (career change, receiving an inheritance, losing a life partner, divorce or remarriage), Laurie works with clients who are planning for retirement. Laurie is a member of the Leadership Oakland Alumni Association and is a frequent contributor to Money Centered.