Maybe you’re approaching the finish line of your career and you see retirement on the horizon. You might check your 401(k) account periodically and put some money into a mutual fund or two from time to time. You might have insurance or cash stashed away.
But as you glance at the sign that says the end of your earning days are near, you might be seized with a flash of panic.
Naturally, the following questions might follow:
Have I saved enough for retirement?
Will I outlive my nest egg?
Will I be working at a big box store greeting customers until I slump over?
Take a breath. Let’s rewind.
You don’t need a medium or psychic to look into a crystal ball. But you do need to be realistic and shift your mindset from avoidance to action mode. Now!
The idea of mindset is the best place to start. If you are in a state of dread, rest assured nothing good can happen. However, the research is clear: an optimistic mindset is vital to good health and a productive life in retirement. It’s time to start getting positive.
While we’re on the subject of good health, chances are, you see your doctor once a year for a checkup. If you’re more likely to forgo the annual physical and rely on WebMD for medical advice, chances are you’re making a big mistake.
When it comes your money life, the same idea applies. It’s just not a do-it-yourself type of plan.
Do you consult with an expert who is independent and acts in your best interest, as a fiduciary? If not, why not? If you rely on a financial advisor who doesn’t act in your best interest, or you rely on online resources, chances are you’re missing something. In doing this, you’re liable to be making a big mistake. Can you really afford a big mistake? Most people cannot.
A healthy retirement plan begins, like most plans, with the end in mind.
Ask yourself these questions first:
1) What do you want your life to look like?
2) What gives you purpose?
3) What reason do you have for getting out of bed in the morning?
I had a conversation with a man approaching retirement and when I asked what he envisioned his retirement to be, he responded, “I just want to play golf.”
I’ve met many people who play golf and many of them even love it. But golf is NOT a retirement plan. It might be a PART of a plan, but it isn’t a plan.
My response to him was, “What will you do in retirement if you can’t play golf? Say, it’s raining or you have an injury? What will you do?”
His response was a non-descript blank stare.
Let’s continue. The first step is to envision your preferred future using, as a guideline, what is really important. For example, for some, it’s being near family, accessibility to health care, to airports, to shopping, to cultural opportunities, to learning environments.
The next stop is to assess the following issues:
1. Your health. If you have health concerns, you will need to position your retirement and your retirement dollars to support your needs.
2. Your financial situation. Do you have debt? Can you downsize, relocate or otherwise pare down your fixed costs? It’s vital to get a clear handle on what’s available and what costs are pulling from your resources. It’s also time to check your social security statement and consider your best option for taking benefits.
3. Your community. Research has shown the importance of building and being a part of a community (however you define it) as you age. This is typically (but not always) easier for women than men. Let this be a wakeup call to men: instead of living in retirement as a “hunter/gatherer”, consider how you can master the art of building and maintaining close friendships.
There’s more to consider, but I’ll stop here. Start with these big factors in creating a meaningful life in your next stage. It doesn’t have to be TOO LATE! But, for goodness sake, start now.