Today’s 70 is yesterday’s 50. Today’s 70-year-olds are performing mentally and even physically the way 50-year-olds did in the past. Most of us will live 20-30 years longer than our grandparents and parents; thus, retirement will be 20 to 30 years longer than it was for generations before us. It is no longer enough to say, “I am tired of working and ready to retire. I plan to travel a little, enjoy my grandchildren and play golf.” These ideas might fill your retirement goals for the first 10 years, but what about the remainder of those 30 years? Do you know what will keep you going? Or will you be like so many retirees who end up with an “F” - as in “frustrated” - in retirement? Bored and unenthused?
Few people begin a vacation without a specific destination in mind. In fact, some folks spend hours focusing on what they will do every second of every day on their vacation. However, millions of people retire without specific goals in mind. Slowing down and entering a perpetual vacation for the rest of your life might sound great after 30 or 40 years of hard work. But you have to ask yourself, was working all about the money? The Unretirement Survey conducted by Harris Poll found that, according to retirees age 60 to 69, the most important reason to work during retirement had nothing to do with money. Instead, it was to keep their minds sharp.1
You have probably heard me say before that I don’t believe people plan to fail; they just fail to plan. I heard it once said that retiring without planning—not just only in relation to money, but in relation to what you will be doing everyday—is like relying on a game of roulette to finance your retirement. So first, I want to give you some “hazard” thoughts that indicate you could flunk retirement and then follow them up with some planning activities to help you ace it.
Hazard Thought: “I don’t know what I want to do…but I am sick of work, customers, moving around, traveling for business all of the time, etc.”
Hazard Thought: “I’m 65 and I should retire.” or “I don’t have to work anymore. I have enough money.”
Hazard Thought: “I know what I am going to do. I am going to relax for the first time in a long time, be an involved grandparent, travel and play tennis.”
Hazard Thought: “Ahhh…I’ve got my wife…we’ll find something to do.”
Your Strengths: Reflect on the positive emotions you receive from your career. Write down your top 5 activities that give you a sense of accomplishment. Write down how you use each of these top 5 assets at work. Write down how you will use each of these top 5 strengths during retirement.
Your Mind: Think about what will drive your mind if you retire. Write down the activities that bring you a sense of engagement or provide a good challenge for you at work. Write down the activities that will give you a sense of engagement or provide a good challenge during retirement.
Your Soul: Write down the activities that bring you a sense of meaning or a sense that you contribute to something larger than yourself today. Write down the activities that will bring you a sense of meaning or provide a contribution to others during retirement.
Your Relationships: Draw a circle and write “Me” in the middle of it. Draw a larger circle around your first circle and write the names of those people who you are closest and most important to. Draw a larger circle and write the names of those who are also important to you, but less so. After completing your map, mark the people you currently work with. While some of these people, whom you work with, will be in your life after retirement, most will not. What can you begin doing to create more relationships to surround your life with after you retire?
Planning for retirement has never been just about the money. It’s about having, and taking, the time to bring a fullness to your life; the opportunity to accomplish personal goals you’ve been setting aside and to enrich those relationships that sustain you emotionally and spiritually. Is your retirement grade an “A”?
1. The Unretirement Survey - The Harris Poll on behalf of TD Ameritrade, November 2019