When it comes to retirement and planning, I’ve heard them all:
“I love what I do. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
“I’ll never have enough money to retire, so I’ll work until I die.”
“I have no hobbies, so I might as well work.”
“I’d be bored outta my skull if I didn’t work.”
“Ha, why should I plan? Man plans, and God laughs.”
“I have children to raise and aging parents to worry about. Retirement? Ha!”
The statements go on and on, all of which recite the same underlying messages that cover important issues. As you think about your retirement plan, consider the following:
- Very few people actively devote time to consider their life in retirement. Basic questions like the “where,” “when,” “how” and “why” need to be clearly considered.
- You can’t predict the future. Unless you consider what life might hold for you, there’s no way to even quantify how much you might need to sustain your financial needs or desires.
- Retirement may not be a choice. Physical health, mental health, and the type of job and economic considerations play a significant role in your life plan.
- We are controlled by fear. Fear plays a significant role in trying to “pin down” something in the future. The sentiment here is, it’s better to do what you know than to face something for which you are untrained and untested.
- For many, their job is how they define themselves. They are Executives, Bakers, Lawyers, Plumbers, Doctors, Salesmen, Architects—their occupations become who they are. When facing retirement, that identity becomes lost; they’re just, Barbara, Sal, Mark or Felice. Their status becomes reduced, at least in their own minds.
Of course, there’s resistance to approaching the process of mapping out a period of life that could be years or decades away. Your life is immensely complicated and filled beyond capacity in the present. It seems that endless responsibilities and actions need to be taken in just one day: Work, putting dinner on the table, getting enough sleep, and maybe catching up on life’s daily tasks.
Then come the broader, but still essential life responsibilities: Addressing immediate needs of family, managing the current state of your finances, taking care of your health. And only then come the pure pleasures and rewards: Maybe getting in a vacation here or there, catching up with friends. So thinking about, what may seem like, an arbitrary time in the future, feels as untouchable as some distant solar system.
The fact is, it’s never too early to start thinking about it–just like saving for retirement; the earlier the better. When considering your retirement plan, here are some topics to consider and discuss with the stakeholders in your life:
- What are some things you’ve always dreamed of doing or being? Don’t be afraid to be creative; let it go. Write down all those ideas. Is it further education? Working in a bookstore? Writing a book? Teaching a class? Painting? Building furniture? Running a marathon? Be bold!
- Which of your goal activities or endeavors have a financial cost, and which ones are relatively dollar neutral? If your goal is to buy an island or a small nation, you might need to rethink that idea; unless that’s your driving desire. You never know what you’re going to find on eBay! Write a clear list of the expensive, less expensive, and dollar neutral items.
- What variables might derail your plans? Poor health, change in employment, severe economic decline or assumptions that are just too aggressive—the variables can be countless. It’s important, however, to consider as many as occur to you.
- What does your current lifestyle look like today and how might it change when the paycheck ends? This question leads to the idea of having a written and well-conceived financial plan that is built on conservative assumptions, realistic outcomes, and as many potential disruptions as possible.
The fact is, if you are fortunate enough to live long enough to have choices about your life, you want to be sure of the following:
- Whether or not retirement is your choice, it is vital that you’ve discovered what can give your life meaning and reason to get out of bed in the morning.
- Studies have shown that people who are active, engaged and have purpose lead healthier, happier, and longer lives.
- Being forward-thinking provides focus and incentivizes our actions today to make choices that benefit us over the whole of our lives.
We don’t know is what our futures hold. We don’t even know what the stock market is going to do tomorrow. But tomorrow always comes, and the best way to approach it is with an open mind and a willingness to tackle some of the challenges and opportunities that will provide us with the highest level of security and satisfaction.
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