Where to Start
Before you set out a plan to create financial reserves for your retirement years, it makes sense to spend some time first reflecting on how you envision enjoying life after you stop working. If you have been in a hard-charging career in a big city where there is only one speed — fast — you might be dreaming about moving to a rural setting to smell the roses and watch the sun set. Perhaps you are in a service industry and all you want is to be situated in an environment where you do not have to worry about maintaining a lawn, clearing away snow, or doing any of the mundane chores of life.
Everyone has dreams. As children, the dream may be to rule as king of the world. As adults, the dreams become tempered with everyday pressures and responsibilities. Somewhere along the way the idea that you will live long enough to finish the work phase of your life will begin to take shape. The best chance of having your dreams become reality is to think about your goals, describing them in as much detail as possible, and to be flexible. For instance, you may have a notion that you want to travel. Is your idea of the best trip ever one that has you reading a paperback novel on the beach in Florida, or one in which you are bouncing across the Serengeti in a jeep, chasing antelope?
Do you want to be retired at a young enough age to be able to hike the Himalayas, or does swinging in a hammock under a palm tree and sipping a drink just about define perfection? Do you desire a globetrotting life, or do you want to be living near your children and grandchildren so you can cheer your granddaughter's soccer team every Saturday morning?
Try asking yourself the following questions. It is a good idea to write down the answers and keep them in a safe place with your other important documents. Review them regularly. Your responses may evolve in the context of where you are in life at that time.
At what age do I expect to retire?
What are my health prospects?
How long do I realistically think I might live?
Do I expect to retire at the same time as a companion or spouse?
How much income will I need?
How and where will I want to live?
What are my top three favorite hobbies or activities?
Do I expect to have a luxurious retirement or have a simpler one?
Do I expect my family to take care of me if I am unable?
Do I have a checklist of things I positively want to do or accomplish before I die?
How do I rate my chances of meeting my goals, on a scale of 1 to 10?
There are absolutely no right or wrong answers in this exercise. It's your life to live as you wish. The one catch to making your dreams come true might be whether or not you will be able to afford them.