Planning is the key to a successful retirement
Why have a non-financial retirement plan?
When people think of a retirement plan – most think of a written financial document which answers the question – Do I have enough money to live on in retirement? Very often the financial plan includes goals, projections, asset allocations, simulations for best- and worst-case scenarios and a suggested financial portfolio.
The majority of people do not plan in the same way for the non-financial aspects of retirement. In fact, most people spend more time planning for a holiday than they do on lifestyle retirement planning such as how to replace their work identity, allocate their time, stay connected as well as being physically and mentally active.
Why is this?
Many people have come to believe that everything will just fall into place when they get to retirement and there is no need to plan. But they forget that retirement is probably the biggest life transition they will ever experience. It ranks as one of the most stressful life events, particularly in the first few years of what can become an emotional roller-coaster. Building and sustaining a nest egg is important – but even more important is making sure that you build and maintain your purpose in life as well as your family, health and friends.
But how do you develop a non- financial retirement plan?
Start the process early – at least a year and preferably more, before you will retire. And by following a few simple steps, you can make sure you “hit the ground’ running when you get to retirement. Any good plan starts with a ‘Vision’ and then identifies ‘Goals and Actions’ that move you towards this Vision. And it’s exactly the same for a retirement plan.
What is your retirement vision?
Dare to dream for a moment? Get rid of any preconceived notions or limitations and think big and bold. Be audacious and take a chance on trying out something that you would never imagine you could do. Let your imagination run wild – this is a unique opportunity in life to be creative – to reflect on old dreams. What would you regret if you didn’t do it in your lifetime? What’s your absolutely perfect retirement look like? What hopes and dreams have been on hold until retirement?
Another useful way to think about vision is to breakdown your life into different aspects and then sketch out how you would like each aspect to look like in say 5 years from now. The list of questions below should help you to do this.
Aspects of Life
Purpose: How will you replace your work identity? What is your new life purpose?
Work: Will you consider working part time or volunteer? Start your own business?
Spouse: How much time have you and your spouse agreed to spend with each other on a daily and weekly basis
Health: How will you stay physically and mentally active?
Home: Where will you live? Will you consider moving? Overseas?
Family: What is the right balance of your needs v your family needs?
Friends: How much time will you spend with friends? Existing v new friends?
Leisure: Are you satisfied with the types of leisure you engage in currently? What activities would you like to try out? Do you want to travel?
Learning: Will you consider learning new things? Going back to college?
Community: How much time/energy do you want to give back and contribute to bigger issues?
Spirituality: What role do I want spirituality and religion to play in my life?
What is your ‘perfect day’ and ‘prefect week’ in retirement?
Now you have some ideas on how you envision your perfect retirement – try and fit them into your ‘perfect day’ and ‘perfect week’.
Imagine a ‘Wednesday’ perhaps up to 6 months after you have retired (so you get beyond the ‘honeymoon period’ of retirement). Be very specific – the more detailed you can be at this stage the better. What will you be doing on that day? Where will you be? Who will be with you? What will give you joy and fun? Then do the same for your perfect week. What will your perfect week look and feel like?
This process will not only give you an idea of time allocation for everything you want to do but also some initial thoughts on priorities. Do you want to play tennis three days a week? Be with your grandchildren every day? Have lunch with spouse on Wednesday and Friday?
In retirement you have the opportunity to be flexible but sketching out a typical day and week brings with it a schedule and a routine that is helpful for giving your retired life some structure.
Once its written down – it acts as a statement of what’s important to you in retirement. You can review it and change it as many times as you want before you actually retire – and retirement reality may bring more changes. But it serves to give you an anchor particularly if the initial retirement waves are stormy.
Ask your spouse or partner to do the same exercise and then compare notes. This can lead to a very valuable conversation about areas of similarity and difference.
From Vision to Action
Now we have a ‘Vision’ sketched out - how do we move towards it?
The most effective way is to set yourself some goals and actions in each of aspect of your life – starting with the priority aspects.
I would suggest 2 to 3 goals in each aspect. Try and write your goals in a SMART way (specific, measurable, action oriented, relevant and time bound). For example: Let’s say your vision in your “work aspect” might be to start up a small home bakery business. You might set a goal to understand all the rules and regulations about setting up a sole trader business by the end of the year. Remember the goals are taking you towards the vision you have already sketched out for each aspect.
Goals can be as stretching as you want to make them. Or they can be a series of small steps. Either way, they will assist you to maintain your forward momentum and help retain a positive mindset. It’s also best to set some priorities – you can’t work on all your goals at the same time!!
To be really effective and long lasting your plan should be written. The mere act of writing something down, increases your commitment to making it happen. You are planning perhaps for up to 30 years of your life – and that’s too significant a time to leave to chance.
It’s your unique retirement plan for the best years of your life!
The plan is not there to ‘give you stress and pressure’ but to provide you peace of mind that you are moving forward with your retirement hopes and dreams. It is also acting as a ‘compass’ that keeps you on the right course.
Remember this is your plan – and its unique to you. You are in control of what you do with all that new freedom. This is the biggest transition in your life and what influences whether these years are the best of your life will largely be determined by how well you plan for them. Planning is the key to enable you to make the most of the array of choices that you have in retirement.