AUGUST 9, 2023
By Jillian Stinson

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

And there’s a surprising amount on your to-do list when you’re approaching retirement. The following can help get all your tasks taken care of, whether you’re retiring in a few years or months.

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:

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

Start by recording your spending habits and consider how they’ll change in retirement. To help, use our free budget calculator.

Next, focus on eliminating or reducing your debt by:

During your financial check-up, 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.).

It’s also a good idea to complete a retirement planning tool, like our Retirement Savings Calculator.

3. Review your estate plan or put one in place

To get your estate plan in order, we recommend taking these steps:

  • 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 you’re alive. And 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 should you 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

Start by listing 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.

Then, 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:

You can check in using our free calculators:

Lastly, 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 Service Canada or Retraite Québec.

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

Ask your employer or benefits provider if you can extend your workplace benefits into retirement benefits.

It’s also a good idea to talk to an advisor about other kinds of insurance you may need (i.e. critical illness insurance or long-term care insurance).

Are you on track to retire?

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

Complete our Retirement Savings Calculator.

Check in with your advisor, or talk with a Sun Life retirement consultant* at 1-888-999-3978.

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

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

  • 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. Talk to a Sun Life retirement consultant at 1-888-999-3978 or find an advisor.

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,

  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.

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

You’ve got options.

Learn about Sun Life Choices

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.