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pre-FIRE checklist

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Exhale:
This is a collection of pre-FIRE checklist info I've been copying from the MMM Forum and some other places. I apologize for not having the sources (I hadn't originally planned to post this info). I do know know that a bunch of it came from Nords (thank you Nords!). Please note that this info is in no way exhaustive. I'm sharing it in case other folks approaching FIRE find it useful. I especially welcome anyone who is FIRE to add to (or correct!) this information. Note: I'm adding suggestions to this list along with the name of the generous person who shared it.

Work
- Records: Make sure all your administrative records are correct and transferred (if necessary). Records to check include: pension record, 401(k) contributions, COBRA, disability insurance
- Sick leave: Check policy to see how this is paid out when you leave
- Vacation days: Check policy to see how this is paid out when you leave. Use up what you can't cash out.
- Decide when/how you'll give notice
- Establish non-work-email for clients/coworkers w/whom you have become personally friendly (With This Herring)
- Copy future-useful documents from work computer - Excel templates you created, etc. (With This Herring)
- Copy internet bookmarks from work computer (With This Herring)
- Document all key processes/procedures for the benefit of who will take over your role (lhmao)
- Live non-work focused life by limiting working extra hours or ruminating about work-related matters (lhamo)

Other planning
- Finalize estate planning documents (will, POA, Health Care Directive, trust documents, etc.)
- Decide if/when/how you'll tell family/friends/co-workers
- Consider replacing your car(s) before you retire.
- IRA: "...show at least enough taxable income to equal the amount you want to contribute to your IRA for that year. "So if you want to contribute $5500, make sure you have earned at least $5500. Quit just before you hit 25% tax bracket. Easy money in low brackets, plus get your capital gains and dividends tax free for the year."
- 401(k): "If you want to max it out for the year you will probably need to set a pretty aggressive contribution rate in the beginning of the year. It won't help you get any more match but it will help with your taxes."
- Get a HELOC on residential property with substantial equity (loan is easier to get when employed) (notquitefrugal)

Calculations
- Income test: Live for a year at the planned post-FIRE level to be sure it's enough
- Track you spending (flyingaway)
- Research and plan post-FIRE insurance options/costs: health, long-term care, life, home, auto (step-in-time)
- Estimate social security earnings given stop work date and different SS start dates
- Forecast taxes, model scenarios, optimize conversions/capital gain harvesting w/Taxcaster or other. (step-in-time)
- Get 2nd Opinion(s): Have a free session w/financial advisor, Vanguard, etc. to ensure you have not overlooked something important. (step-in-time)
- Confirm retirement income projections on different calculators (FIRECALC, Fidelity Retirement Income Planner)
- Figure out cash flow plan for years between retirement date and access traditional retirement accounts
- Finalize Withdrawal Strategy: Where/when withdrawals will occur. (step-in-time)

Housing
- If you have a mortgage rate, check into refinancing one more time. This will be more difficult. (chasesfish)
- If you are planning to move/buy, if you need a mortgage, buy as a 2nd home prior to quitting work. You're only required to be employed through the day of closing, then turn in your notice afterwards. (chasesfish)

Health
- If you can, get fit, quit smoking, etc. so you can use any employers benefits to help you in this process
- Max out all the company's medical/dental benefits (same for dependents)
- Get physicals, a full skin exam, bloodwork, other tests, prescriptions, etc. (same for dependents and pets)
- Get dental cleaning, full set of x-rays and check condition of fillings/dental work (same for dependents and pets)
- Schedule necessary or optional-but-desired surgical procedures for the work wind-down period in order to benefit from insurance and paid sick leave/disability leave. (lhamo)
- Consider entering therapy (especially if covered by insurance) to deal with any issues related to work/family before you FIRE -- these things can hit hard once you no longer have work occupying much of your time (lhamo)
- Read Dr. Doom's blog, World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down by Christian McEwan, and items from https://evgeniagotfi.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/how-to-quit-your-job/ (Evgenia)

Social Networks & Post-FIRE activities
- Start building or reinforcing connections with people you can spend time with during typical working hours post-FIRE.  Especially if you are FIREing at a comparatively young age and most of your existing social circle will be continuing to work. (lhamo)
- Explore different activities that interest you, build social networks/peer groups related to those activities. (lahamo)

One year before
- Pre-load CD ladder - See https://livingafi.com/2014/05/18/drawdown-part-3-strategy/ (CowboyAndIndian)

One month before
- Ask, "What I will do next Tuesday?" (followed by a set of activities or projects that are interesting and draw you away from employment). As in "OK, say your last day is a Friday; I bet you'll take Monday to do nothing. I can picture you doing nothing for less than a day. What will you do starting that Tuesday?" Frugal-Investor writes: "I built a list that I ended up calling the Eight Challenges. The list was made up of specific goals I wanted to achieve like getting great veggies from my garden and getting certified with my dog as a therapy dog team... Each challenge was was specific but the ground they covered together was quite broad....Because it was specific, it gave me structure...It became a transition plan or work rebound approach. After about 6 months (perhaps decompression?), the list became less of a focus. (Frugal-Investor)
- Implement Income Stream - Set dividends/capital gains from taxable acct to automatically transfer to bank acct. If you have deferred compensation, file paperwork for regular payments from the acct. "I would keep track of taxable account dividends to know what you can expect to get monthly and quarterly. Your retirement plan administrator will have rules for setting up 457(b) withdrawals.  They tend not to be all that flexible.  Generally, if you set nothing up, you will receive all of it as a lump sum and owe income tax on the entirety, a scenario to avoid." (PhysicianOnFIRE)

Final Steps to FIRE
- Give notice
- Finish projects/Train new employee(s) - Be strict with yourself about limiting extra hours at work
- Make sure that sick leave/vacation day payouts, retirement contributions, etc. are being processed correctly

And then...
- Take a guilt-free detox period (many say it can take six months to detox and find your new pace/activities)


More specialized notes:
- If interested in charitable giving, consider optimizing tax benefit while still earning income (CanuckExpat)
- Licenses/certificates: renew if easier to do while still employed
- Accountants:  If you prepared your personal income tax returns with the firm's software, make sure that you have copies of ALL of them at home and that any versions you leave behind are at least password-protected if they cannot be deleted entirely. (With This Herring)

flyingaway:
Track spending? although this could go to your Calculations -> Income Test.

lhamo:
Great list.  A few suggested additions:


Work:

Document all key processes/procedures for the benefit of who will take over your role

Be strict with yourself about limiting extra hours at work /off-hours ruminating about work-related matters -- start practicing for a non-work-focused lifestyle during your work wind-down period, it will make the transition to FIRE more gentle (and less stressful)

Health:

Schedule any necessary or optional-but-desired surgical procedures to happen during work wind-down period, so that you can benefit from insurance coverage and paid sick leave/disability leave. 

Consider entering therapy (especially if it is covered by insurance) to deal with any mental health issues related to work/family before you FIRE -- these things can hit hard once you no longer have work occupying much of your time

Social Networks and Post-FIRE activities

Start building or reinforcing connections with people you can spend time with during typical working hours post-FIRE.  Especially if you are FIREing at a comparatively young age and most of your existing social circle will be continuing to work.

Start exploring different activities that interest you and building social networks/peer groups related to those activities.

Exhale:
Thank you flyingaway and lhamo! I've added your suggestions to the list. lhamo, I especially appreciated the reminder and concrete steps for transitioning to a "non-work-focused lifestyle."

Nords:
Thanks, Exhale!  I still get requests for a pre-retirement checklist, and I'll send readers here...

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