From the day you started working you have probably been dreaming of retirement. In fact, I recently heard a six year old say she was ready for retirement, so that she doesn’t have to go to school anymore! Age six might be a little young to start thinking about retirement, but not by much. The first step on the journey to retirement is simply to start thinking about retirement.
Thinking about retirement, what you might call the “imagination phase”, begins for most people as they transition from early to mid-career. This imagination phase may continue up until about five or six years out from retirement. During this time, people typically are enthusiastic about retirement, but have not really given it any serious thought. Yet it is an important step to successful planning. So what are people dreaming about in the imagination phase? More importantly, what should they be thinking about during this phase?
In the back of the pre-retiree’s mind they know retirement is coming, but it does not have the same urgency as keeping up with monthly bills, paying the mortgage, saving for a child’s college, caring for aging parents or simply maintaining today’s lifestyle. Thoughts of retirement may oscillate between an oncoming burden and dreams of a distant paradise.
At this time, they are probably saving because they know they are supposed to, but without any specific goal in mind. If the individual was able to start saving early in their career for retirement, they may start to save more aggressively as they transition into the imagination phase. Most likely the person in the imagination phase has not done a formal calculation of their retirement needs, so there may be uncertainty about how much money is required, leading to feelings of apprehension and unpreparedness.
To lay the foundation for a successful retirement you must spend some time envisioning just what you want your retirement to look like. Do you want to play golf seven days a week? Or travel to all 48 contiguous states by RV? Or maybe your dream is to own a ranch with horses, or run a bed and breakfast from your home. The point is that you are much less likely to achieve your retirement goal if you don’t know what the goal is. One important step to a successful retirement is to choose how you plan to spend your future.
Remember, during the imagination phase you still have time to take control of your retirement. Once you can picture what you want your lifestyle to look like, then you can develop a plan to accomplish it. For instance, you may plan to work part-time during the early years of retirement. Or perhaps get paid to work at your favorite charity or to staff the pro-shop at your local golf course. You may choose to work an extra one or two years to make sure you never work again as long as you live. You may even plan to continue working at your primary occupation indefinitely but the key is to be able to do it because you want to, not because you have to.
Many people just think of retirement in terms of money. But money is just the tool that allows you to build whatever retirement you envision. Frequently, retirees use this major transition to re-define themselves in their retirement years. For these retirees, the concept of money is intertwined with concepts of family, service, spirituality, creativity and other emotional aspects of personal satisfaction. Happiness during retirement is measured in more than just dollars and cents. Discover what makes you happy and begin planning for that today.
Both the financial and imagination aspects are necessary to planning a good retirement. If you would like to discuss these aspects, give us a call at 800-234-9584 and ask to speak with one of our Certified Financial Planner™ professionals. Your choice is your future!
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