FEBRUARY 3, 2022
By Jillian Stinson

Read time: 7 minutes

Your retirement checklist 

Even though you’re still busy working, the years and months before retirement are a key time to: 

  • create a financial plan (if you don’t have one),
  • review your finances,
  • consider how you’ll spend your time and
  • make plans for how you’ll manage your health and wellbeing.

There’s a surprising amount on your to-do list when you’re approaching retirement. The following checklist can help get all your tasks taken care of. That’s whether your retirement date is still a few years away, or just around the corner. 

Are you on track to retire? 

To help figure out if you’re on track to retire, take some time to: 

Based on your results, are you on track to retire as planned?

If you said "Yes, I'm right where I thought I'd be", that's great. 

Keep up the good work to make sure your savings stay on track. 

If you said "I'm saving more than expected", that's excellent.

Don't forget to consider any possible tax implications from your extra savings.

If you said "No, what do I do?", don't panic.

Meet with a Sun Life Advisor. 

What should you do 3-5 years before you retire? 

When you’re about 3-5 years away from your retirement date, there’s 3 things you need to do:

1. Plan how you’ll spend your time

  • Think about and write down how you’ll spend your time in retirement.  
    To ensure you have a balanced plan, think about activities that support these 3 keys to wellness: 
What is it?
1. Taking care of your health Regular physical activity, healthy eating habits, strength and vitality, self-care and seeking medical attention when needed. And actively managing any pre-existing conditions you may have.
  • Join a walking club
  • Get regular massage 
  • Garden and grow your own foods
  • Checkups with your doctor
  • Try new recipes
2. Activities and interests Creative and stimulating mental activities and expanding your knowledge and skills.
  • Read
  • Travel to new places
  • Go back to school
3. Community and Social Life
Staying actively engaged with the world.
  • Join a book club 
  • Visit the library 
  • Travel 
  • Coffee or lunch dates 

2. Do a financial check-up

  • Record your spending habits and consider how they’ll change in retirement. 
  • Eliminate or reduce your debt. 
  • Take stock of your sources of retirement income. Remember to include all sources of income (i.e. government benefits, employer-sponsored plans, personal savings, etc.). 
  • Complete a retirement planning tool, like our Retirement Savings Calculator

3. Review your estate plan or put one in place 

  • Get professional advice 
    • Even if your estate isn’t complicated, there can be pitfalls in the planning process. Be sure to discuss your estate plans with a lawyer or advisor.
  • Designate beneficiaries for your plans and insurance policies.
  • Prepare a will.
    • Your will may include directions on your principal residence, leaving assets for your loved ones or paying taxes.
  • Complete a power of attorney (medical and/or financial), living will or directive. 
    • Name someone to handle your affairs if you’re unable to, while your alive.
    • Specify your final wishes to save those close to you from making these decisions during a difficult time. 
  • Review your insurance and consider other types of coverage.
    • Life insurance may seem less important close to retirement. However, many of the assets you accumulated in life may become taxable in death. So, don’t cancel those policies until you complete your estate plan. 
    • Critical illness and long-term care insurance can help cover the costs of serious illness and aging. These factors can have the biggest impact on a retirement fund.

What steps can you take if you’re not on track to retire? 

Here are some things you can do to get your retirement plan back on track: 

What you can do
How will that help?
Adjust your retirement lifestyle.
Think about the little and big things you can do to adjust your lifestyle.
Retire later.
Try the Retirement Savings Calculator again with a later retirement date to see the difference.
Ease into retirement by working part-time.
This can help with your income worries and adjusting to a new lifestyle too.
Consider collecting government benefits earlier. Canada Pension Plan is available as early as age 60, but at a reduced amount. 

Before making any significant changes, it’s wise to get professional advice and understand the consequences and costs. Speak with a Sun Life retirement consultant at 1-888-999-3978 or find an advisor

What do you need to do 6-12 months before you retire? 

When you’re a year or less away from your retirement date, there’s 5 things you need to do:

1. Create a detailed income plan

  • List where your retirement income will come from, how much you’ll receive from each savings source and when you’ll start taking income from each source. 
  • Think about when you’ll need to start using your savings as income. Ask if it can stay in your workplace plan until you need it, or if you need to: 
  • Check in using our free calculators:
  • Revise your financial plan, if necessary. Talk to a Sun Life advisor or Sun Life retirement consultant.*

2. Set your official retirement date 


  • Talk to your HR department; depending on your workplace plan, you may have some choice on the date, or it may be less flexible. 


3. Start the paperwork for government benefits and income products


  • Think about when you want to start receiving income from your available sources. Some products and government benefits take up to 6 months to start receiving payments. If you’ll need income as of your last day of work, you’ll want to start this process in advance. For information visit servicecanada.gc.ca or rrq.gouv.gc.ca.


Retirement product
Estimated time it takes to start receiving income (business days)
Government benefits
120 days
Defined Benefit Pension Plan
60 days
Defined Contribution Pension Plan 30 days 
3-5 days

4. Think about health benefits during retirement

Are you retiring from your job with Sun Life workplace benefits or retirement savings?

You’ve got options. 

Learn about Sun Life Choices

What do you need to do during retirement? 

Besides enjoy your well-earned retirement, there’s a few things you need to do: 

  1. manage your retirement plan, 
  2. monitor your withdrawal rate to ensure your income is sustainable for your retirement, and
  3. name a Trusted Contact Person.

Even though you’ve retired, you still need to monitor your accounts as economies, lifestyles and costs change. To do this, you need to decide whether: 

  • you want to be responsible for making decisions about your retirement savings or 
  • you’d rather transfer that responsibility to your advisor. 

Who can help with your retirement plan?

Whether you’re years or months away from retirement, now is a good time to: 

  • meet your advisor to check in, or 
  • speak with a Sun Life retirement consultant* at 1-888-999-3978. 

Handling these tasks now can help you enjoy the worry-free retirement you deserve. 

Don’t have an advisor? Find a Sun Life advisor now

*Registered as financial security advisors in the province of Quebec. 

This article is meant to provide general information only. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada does not provide legal, accounting, taxation, or other professional advice. Please seek advice from a qualified professional, including a thorough examination of your specific legal, accounting and tax situation.