Sometimes here at AgingOptions we feel like we’re repeating ourselves when we remind people that “retirement planning” and “financial planning” are not the same thing. Yet frequently we encounter intelligent men and women poised on the brink of retirement who seem to think that all it takes to retire successfully is to have a basic plan for their money. This is false – and it’s dangerous! As we’ll explain in just a moment, our retirement years are about much more than money, and in our experience a lack of preparation is the biggest single reason so many people fail to experience the kind of retirement they were longing for.
Thinking Through Retirement Means Taking a Holistic Approach
With that in mind it’s always gratifying to see our holistic view of retirement corroborated in the national press, this time in this helpful article from Kiplinger. In it, author, financial planner and retirement expert Dave Littell writes about what he calls “8 Ways to Get Better Acquainted with Your New Retirement Life.” We’re not sure we would have used the term “get better acquainted,” because the article is really about being better prepared for a new chapter of life, one that can easily last for two or three decades. “Mental preparation is just as important for retirement as financial planning,” writes Littell. “Preparing for retirement is not just about money, it means thinking through what this new phase of life might look like.” Littell advocates an approach he refers to as “taking a journey through the various aspects of retirement life” – a concept that to some degree approaches what we call LifePlanning.
Major Themes to Help You Think Through Retirement: Health, Family, Work
In order to find out what kind of life we want to lead in retirement, Littell lists eight common retirement themes, along with corresponding questions for you and your spouse to review. The goal is “to help build a better, more well-defined retirement future.” Let’s take an overview of the Kiplinger list. (Check out the article for more details.)
- Health. “A retiree’s health can affect virtually all aspects of retirement,” writes Littell. It can affect leisure activities, living arrangements, the timing of retirement, and the suitability of part-time or full-time work. The healthier you are, the more satisfied with retirement y0u’re likely to be. Some related discussion questions: How are we maintain good health and fitness? What future health concerns might affect retirement living? We would also ask, how are we ensuring adequate medical insurance coverage?
- Family. Here at AgingOptions, we believe aging is a family affair, and Kiplinger agrees. “Your family can have a prevalent impact on retirement,” Littell writes, affecting your spending, leisure time, housing choices, and future care options. You and your spouse need to ask yourselves how important it is to stay close to family. Can we see ourselves living with one our kids someday? We suggest that a family conference guided by an objective professional should definitely be on your retirement To Do list.
- Work. Whether your work is paid or volunteer, full time or part time, continuing your work life in retirement helps bring meaning and purpose, not to mention potential income. Are you planning to work in retirement? And are you and your spouse on the same page about how working or volunteering will affect your free time?
Think Through Retirement: Leisure, Purpose, Housing, Legacy, Long-Term Care
- Leisure. “Leisure takes on new meaning in retirement,” says Littell, “finally [providing] the time to pursue dreams you’ve put off.” But unless spouses agree on leisure-time ground rules, having too much free time can create retirement friction. Do you each enjoy the same types of leisure activities? What would you really like to try that you haven’t done before? And how will you handle it if one spouse wants to undertake something the other spouse doesn’t want to do?
- Life’s purpose. “Having a sense of purpose is an important part of retirement satisfaction,” says the Kiplinger “This doesn’t have to mean changing the world; it simply means having something that is important to you and gives you a reason to get up in the morning.” It’s helpful for spouses to ask each other which retirement activities they think will give them a sense of purpose. Does either of you have a “bucket list” of things you hope to accomplish during retirement?
- Housing. Being in agreement about housing plans and preferences in retirement is extremely important as couples choose whether to stay in their family home or to start new life in a new location. Talk through your options with your spouse early on, before a health crisis forces a move for which you are emotionally and financially unprepared. If one of you dreams of moving to a cottage in the woods while the other longs for a condo in the city, you’ve got some negotiating to do.
- Legacy. “Legacy is more than just about leaving money,” says Littell. “It is leaving a mark on the world and having a say in how you want to be remembered.” It is important and helpful for spouses to talk through everything from personal philanthropy to the disposition of your cherished possessions. Once you agree on the legacy you hope to leave, that knowledge can help guide many of your decisions.
- Long-term care. You may be in robust health today, but there’s going to come a stage of life when you will not be as independent as you are now. “Paying for additional care is an important issue,” says the article, “but there is a lot more to long-term care planning than that.” For example, if you chose to age in place, who would handle the chores that you could no longer do? Who would act as your power of attorney if you were no longer able to think clearly? How do family members feel about one day being responsible for your care – and have you made provisions to help them afford outside help?
Think Through Retirement with an AgingOptions LifePlan
We agree with writer Dave Littell’s recommendation that thinking ahead about retirement is really important, because all the pieces of the retirement puzzle are interconnected, and each can affect your ultimate satisfaction. Retirement can be an exciting new life stage when prepared for properly. At AgingOptions we advocate a planning strategy called LifePlanning in which we weave together financial, legal, health, housing and family “threads” into a carefully blended tapestry with each element reinforcing the others. If you’re ready for this kind of planning, we’re ready to welcome you to a free LifePlanning Seminar with Rajiv Nagaich. For details on dates and times, visit our Live Events page, or call this week for assistance. Build the retirement of your dreams with a LifePlan from AgingOpti0ns.
(originally reported at www.kiplinger.com)