What does retirement mean to you? Do you have a list of things you would like to do when you retire, or are you clueless? Does the thought of retirement motivate and excite you, or does it evoke fear and apprehension? In coaching clients around retirement planning, I’ve observed that many of them have no idea what retirement means to them, making retirement planning a challenge.
The dictionary defines retirement as “the act of retiring from one’s work, office, etc.; the act of going away or retreating; the removal of something from service or use.” Ouch! Do any of these definitions speak to you? I’ve put together some tools and strategies to avoid retirement planning pitfalls.
Your retirement expectations might be flawed because you’re…
1. Ignoring Your Emotions
If you’re at a loss for how to plan your retirement, think about how you want to feel and how — not what — you want to be as a retiree. Do you want to feel calm, happy, energized? Do you want to be active, purposeful, connected to others?
Over the course of a few brainstorming sessions, write down all of the ways you want to feel and all of the ways you want to be when you are retired. Then ask yourself, “What do I need to do?” and “What actions do I need to take to feel and be this way?” For example, if you want to feel calm and relaxed, engage in activities that will evoke that feeling such as reading, meditation, or yoga.
If you want to be active and have an engaging social life, participate in activities that promote that lifestyle such as exercising regularly, getting together with friends, or taking up a new hobby. Be sure to keep a list of these activities and incorporate them into your retirement plan.
2. Not Focusing On An Overall Theme
Have you ever been to a theme park? You know; one of those amusement parks or venues based on a central theme or concept. You go to a theme park to enjoy yourself and that’s what retirement is all about! I’m not suggesting that you model your retirement after Disney World, but like feeling and being, choosing a theme will help you create a lifestyle around the things that matter to you most.
Let’s brainstorm again, this time making a list of all the attractions that might interest you at a theme park. Are you drawn to exhibits/museums, performances, or tours? Next, identify a theme (there can be more than one) or concept from your list and come up with activities that reflect your theme.
For example, if you enjoy exhibits or museums, learning may be one of your themes. Ask yourself, “What do I want to learn during retirement?” If attending performances or concerts is your thing, then entertainment may be one of your themes. Ask yourself, “What forms of entertainment would I like to attend on a regular basis?” If travel or tours pique your interest, then adventure may be one of your themes.
If you prefer to skip the theme park altogether and sit by the pool or get a massage, then relaxation/leisure may be one of your themes. Don’t forget to add these to your retirement to-do list.
3. Not Letting Go Of The Past
Many believe that retirement is governed by “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts”’ For example, “I should move or downsize, I shouldn’t work, I should pursue something that has meaning and purpose, or I shouldn’t do anything that is too rigorous.”
Retirement is not about what you should or shouldn’t do. Certainly, financial considerations must be taken into account, but the more financially prepared you are, the more freedom you will have to create a fulfilling retirement. But, no matter your financial situation, you can design your retirement around how you want to feel, how you want to be, and the key themes you’ve established for yourself.
The decision about whether to work during retirement can be a challenging one. If you want the stimulation and sense of purpose associated with work, not to mention the income, don’t let a “shouldn’t” stop you. You might want to work less or put a new spin on what you currently do.
Retirement can provide a great opportunity to experiment and experience work as well as other kinds of pursuits in new and exciting ways. Many retirees fulfill the dream of opening a new business or getting a job in a field that is unrelated to their previous career or employment, just for the fun of it. Flexibility and creativity are key to navigating any kind of work-related retirement. “Shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” don’t get a vote.
4. Assuming One Size Fits All
There are many ways to plan for retirement and each person’s situation is unique. We bring our own set of beliefs and expectations to this stage of life, not to mention financial considerations. While shortcuts are tempting, such as modeling your retirement after a trusted family member’s or using a cookie-cutter approach, these strategies often backfire.
A client of mine, “Bev,” designed a retirement plan around her best friend’s with whom she had a lot in common. On paper, their situations looked very similar, i.e. similar interests, preferences, and budgets, but in reality, something got lost in translation. We started working together soon after her retirement plan began to unravel.
Bev’s problem was that she didn’t trust her own instincts. She assumed her friend knew her better than she knew herself. I asked her to make a list of all of the things about her retirement lifestyle that were a good fit and all of the things that were not. It soon became apparent that her plan didn’t contain enough of her unique interests and preferences. What was missing from her retirement plan… was “Bev!”
5. Not Planning
Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail.” You’d be amazed at the number of people who don’t plan for retirement. The most-often cited reasons include not having enough time, not being financially prepared, not knowing where to start, and fear of the unknown. If any of these reasons apply to you, remember, “Better late than never!” You can make up for lost time by planning your retirement now!
Start by making a list of all of the things you would like to do, but never seem to have enough time for. Next, make a list of all of the things you don’t want to do in retirement. It may sound strange, but a don’t-list is a great way to avoid doing things you really don’t want to do just to fill in time or do out of default. These “fillers” include unnecessary errands and/or shopping, watching too much TV, or excessive napping.
Next, use this article as a guide. Remember, it’s about the way you want to feel and the way you want to be in the world along with your themes that enable your decisions and choices. Shoulds and shouldn’ts only serve to limit your thinking, so be on the lookout for their potentially negative influences.
Finally, a good way to get the ball rolling is through retrospection. Imagine that you’re on the “other side” looking back on your life, specifically your retirement years. Write down what you would regret most about how you spent those years. What would you like to have done more or less of? Use these insights to guide your planning for this exciting new chapter of your life story.
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