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Retirement Readiness

Joonas Tikkanen

According to Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

That’s the gist of my first suggestion to folks with their eyes set on retirement: take a close look at your life now. What aspects of your life do you want to keep, what do you want to change and what do you want to do away with altogether?

Start with the first big question: “what is my current lifestyle?”

That question includes financial matters, but is not only (or even most importantly) financial. What aspects of your life today are either enjoyable or meaningful? Is it reasonable for you to continue those things in retirement? Or even increase them?

Joe and Wanda enjoyed serving people and keeping busy. Joe’s job was not his first love, but he did it well for 40 years until he retired. Then for the next 15 or so years, Joe and Wanda hit the road in their travel trailer, living a few months at a time in locations they enjoyed. But every place they visited, they found a local food bank and volunteered their time. They packed, sorted, loaded, served and had a blast doing it.

For them, they found the sweet spot of pleasure and purpose in their retirement years. It was their ideal life.

If you can figure out what you love to do now, and with whom you love to do it, you can get an idea of what you’ll want to do in retirement.

Maybe you’ve noticed that I haven’t brought up money yet. It’s not because money isn’t vitally important in retirement – if the unexamined life isn’t worth living, the unfunded retirement isn’t even possible!

But money isn’t where you start. If you start there, you may end up with a well-funded, unhappy retirement. Is that what you want?

So take the time up front to inventory your life. Determine what aspects you want to do away with and what aspects you want to keep, or even magnify. This won’t fit everyone, but let me suggest two areas for consideration: enjoyable activities and enduring purposes. This was the pleasure and purpose sweet spot of Joe and Wanda’s retirement.

Once you have an idea of what this might look like, we can then attach a price tag to everything. What will these activities themselves cost (if anything)? And what other costs will you have that are just part of living – bills, groceries, transportation, medicine, etc. 

So, your retirement plan should definitely include financial things like a budget, insurance, sources of monthly income and safety nets for unexpected emergencies.

But that’s not where the plan starts.

It starts with an examination – of what you really want out of your life during retirement.

Byron is a Certified Financial Planner and Managing Director of the Planning Group at Argent Advisors, Inc.
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