Plan for Income, Plan for Living
In the first ten chapters of this book you found practical information, and a lot of encouragement, for getting yourself organized financially for retirement. As you saw, it takes discipline and diligent management of savings and investments to stitch together the income sources needed to carry you for perhaps decades. One of the key lessons in those earlier chapters was how to use time to your advantage by beginning to put money into retirement accounts right from the beginning of your working days. You were encouraged to remain doggedly committed to “paying yourself” every pay period; and, most importantly, not to give in to the temptation to spend any monies if they pass through your hands in transition from one retirement plan to another.
In Chapter 11 you read about how the old norms for defining retirement are eroding — the exciting evolution under way is bringing new life to what had been considered the quiet years of old age. You will be blessed with time and energy to bring to activities you want to pursue in your post-work years. Consequently, you will need to do the same long-term planning for how you will live in retirement as you did for how you would support yourself (and maybe a spouse) in retirement. Just as with financial planning, life planning requires thoughtful deliberation of options. Before you can pick from the choices that appeal to you, it will be a good idea to do some research to learn more about your areas of interest. These can cover a range of possibilities and may include:
Traveling — exotic, social-service oriented, environmental, luxurious, or rugged
Developing nascent interests
Volunteering in your community, or across the globe
Taking classes to learn new skills
Working on political issues
Being a mentor
Becoming more connected to neighbors
When you are deep in the trenches of your workaday life you may be so busy that you can barely claw your way through the daily demands of your job and personal life, much less find the time to explore dimensions of how you will live your life later. Yet before you know it, your friends are building a little vacation house with a view toward moving there full-time for their retirement; you realize that your kids are able to drive themselves to their many activities; and you are nearing the number of years worked at your firm to become fully vested in the retirement plan. Suddenly it is time to take the long view ahead: decades, not just next month's calendar jammed with commitments. As you do, you will want to start sketching out a vision of the following dimensions of your life:
Housing options for each decade after fifty
“Down time” you'll need daily and weekly, and what form that it might take
Activities for relaxation, stimulation, or escape
Components of a healthy lifestyle
It is no secret that the expectations for job performance have ramped up to red zone levels of intensity for many people. With instant access to information online, the ease of shooting messages back and forth via email and text messaging, the cultural norms for communication have put intense emphasis on speed. Taking time to weigh options, reflecting upon a response before firing it off, or having the time to gather all relevant information to formulate a considered solution to a problem is becoming as archaic as the Ford Model T.
If you are going to do a good job of getting your mind, as well as your wallet, prepared for retirement, you somehow will need to find a way to carve out time and space for reflecting upon, and planning for, how you expect your transition out of work to go. Jeri Sedlar and Rick Miners wrote a book together called
What picture comes to mind when you imagine being retired?
What do you anticipate adding to your life in retirement?
What do you picture giving up?
Do you have ideas for what your retirement should be?
How about not retiring? What image comes to mind? Something positive? Something negative?
Have you observed retirements of friends? Parents? Relatives?
What parts of what you have seen would you emulate, or do differently?
Counsel for Life Planning
In much the same way you may have selected a retirement professional to help you put together a multifaceted financial strategy to fund your nonworking years, you can seek counsel for the life planning part of the coming decades. Finding a person to sit down with and work through some of the preceding soul-searching questions will force you to do it. Your financial planning advisor may ask you to articulate the concrete needs of your retirement:
Will you be able to live where you are now? For how long?
How will your health care needs be met?
Do you need tax planning for your estate?
What will be your income sources?
He will then help you find the way to put the dollars together for those goals. This financial expert may not have the skills to tease out the more esoteric dimensions of thinking through what shape your retirement might take. Some resources to help you develop a retirement
Use a life coach, a practitioner in an emerging field.
Keep a journal of dreams, goals, and desires.
Read books and articles.
Follow trends in all media, including movies and TV. Observe how older people are portrayed — cranky and passive, or vibrant and useful? Do you see yourself in these images?
Talk to people you know who have experience in retirement, including those who may have come out of retirement and returned to work.
Increasingly, Web sites are popping up that address dimensions of retirement other than exclusively financial. A few examples are:
Creating a retirement life plan will be an ongoing process, continuing even once you are in retirement. The more effort you put into preparing yourself by declaring your dreams and expectations (even if only in the privacy of a journal), the more likely you will come up with a game plan you can follow.
When Two Are Involved
If you have a spouse or partner, you will need to create both individual life plans, and a team plan. If you do not expect to be retiring around the same time, there may be some significant juggling of goals and expectations, or at least defining their timelines. Some instances in which couples may be out of sync with their retirement launches are:
When there is an age spread of ten or more years
When one partner has had a later start getting into a particular retirement plan (in a school system, for instance) and needs to put in the requisite years to reap the benefits
When a stay-at-home spouse takes on employment around the same time the other spouse gets ready to sell a business and get out of the workaday world
When one partner needs to stop working due to a serious health problem or disability
It is hard enough trying to get your own life sorted out. The complexity of getting workable plans created when two people are involved goes up exponentially. This is all the more reason you really must treat the life-planning facet of your retirement with the same care and seriousness you apply to financial preparedness.