Retirement planning is about more than just money ​

by Badgley Phelps | Mar 07, 2018

By Mitzi Carletti

When most of us think about retirement, we think about money first: how much we will save before hitting the full Social Security retirement age of 67. But successful retirement is not just about money. In fact, no amount of money will guarantee a happy retirement. Beyond adequately saving, here are four questions to ask as you plan for retirement.

1. How do you want to spend your time?

We spend our pre-retirement lives trying to manage our busy schedules, striving to stay organized, keep our stress levels low and achieve work-life balance. But what happens when you retire and the scales tip in one direction: when there’s no more work and there’s just life?

It’s incredibly important to devote some pre-retirement energy to thinking about how you’ll spend your time when you retire. Start by asking yourself what you’d like to be doing right now if you weren’t working. Think about retired people you know and what they do with their time and write down any ideas you’d like to emulate. Talk with friends, family and trusted advisers to help identify your passions. Then start to map out how you will go about whatever it is you want to do, remembering to be creative in imagining how you can fulfill these desires.

2. Where do you want to live?

There can be financial and emotional benefits to selling your home in retirement. But you may not want to sell too hastily. My advice is to try before you buy (and sell). Go ahead and make that move across the country to be in the region of your dreams or near your family, but it doesn’t mean you need to immediately sell your primary residence and buy a condominium in the new location. Get a house sitter or rent your home for a few months while you try out your new lifestyle. Do you enjoy living in a very social environment or are you craving solitude and reflection? Rent in different neighborhoods: try a single-family neighborhood or a condominium community to make certain you are happy and comfortable. Don’t make unchartered territory a permanent decision by selling your home too soon. Take your time…it is the luxury of being retired. 

3. How will you stay engaged and feel relevant?

Before retirement, it’s a good idea to think about what will give you purpose when you’re no longer working. Think about your most rewarding experiences in life to date: What can you do to get that same feeling when you retire? It’s easy to stay busy during the first phase of retirement because there are so many things on our to-do lists that can successfully occupy weeks or months—including those bucket list vacations we’ve always been meaning to take. But when the dust settles, how will you feed your soul and find meaning in your days? Don’t wait until retirement, thinking you’ll have time to do it then. These are important emotional considerations that can make a huge difference in how happy you are in retirement. 

4. How do you plan to stay healthy?

To manage ailments you have and prevent new ones, and to ensure your safety and independence as you age, good health is more important in retirement than ever before. That’s why you should seize the opportunity to take care of yourself in retirement—and today. Take advantage of your gym membership and hold on to it after retirement even though you may be inclined to give it up as an unnecessary expense. There are other places to save, and gyms provide a safe environment in which to exercise in all kinds of weather and any time of the day or night. They can also be an excellent source of social interaction with people who share similar interests to your own. If you’re not a gym person, choose other activities like walking, dancing, yoga, golfing or swimming. Exercise has proven benefits to improving your memory and thinking skills, and staying healthy can result in huge medical cost savings.

As the AARP says, “Aging is changing.” That’s why it’s a good idea to consider the elements beyond money today to help ensure a successful retirement tomorrow.



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