If you are seriously thinking about retirement, there are many things that need to be addressed, but one that is often overlooked is identifying what “retirement” means to you. If you are single or a part of a couple, communication and prioritizing goals is key to a happy and less stressful retirement.
There is one exercise I use in my practice that is helpful for singles and couples alike. I ask my clients to take a sheet of paper and pen at home, maybe on a weekend or some other time when they are relaxed and can spend some time on the exercise, and just brainstorm all of the things they want in retirement. Where do you want to live? Do you want a vacation home? How often and where do you want to travel? Do you want to take road trips and stay in hotels or fly everywhere and stay in resorts or perhaps cruise everywhere? Do you want to buy an RV or motorcycles or some other toy you’ve always wanted? Do you want to work part time? What hobbies do you want to pursue? If you are part of a couple, do you want to retire at the same time? You should allow yourself to “free write” anything that comes to mind, just jot it down…nothing at this point should be considered too big or too extravagant. Go wild. Most people run out of ideas around fifteen to twenty items. If you are part of a couple, be sure to separate and work on your own list. No cheating!
Now that you have established your dreams, you can start the slightly less fun task of prioritizing them. Go back to your list and circle everything you are willing to commit your time, energy, money, and worry to. Most people will now have somewhere between three and five things that they really feel are necessary to have a happy and fulfilled retirement. If you are single, this is what you want to take with you to your financial advisor who will then be able to help you start to match what you have with what you want and determine what else you may have to do to get there. This could include reevaluating your goals; putting off your retirement a couple years, saving more in your retirement accounts, planning on spending less in retirement, working part time in retirement, etc.
If you are part of a couple, you can now take the list you wrote and the items you circled and compare it with your partner and let the fun begin! If none of the circled items on your lists match up, you have some work to do. This may be hard and even uncomfortable and you may wonder who “this stranger” sitting next to you is! But, better to work on it before you both take your last pay check than five years into retirement when you wake up one morning wondering who’s RV is parked in the front yard! When you get all the kinks worked out and you are in agreement, then set an appointment to see your financial advisor.
Like all big life-altering events, planning for retirement is stressful and complex, but with hard work, planning and perhaps compromise, you will be better prepared to overcome the inevitable roadblocks that pop up along the way, have a smooth transition from work life to retirement, and have an enjoyable, fulfilling and less stressful retirement.