As I put money into my 401k and retirement accounts each month, I have fun pictures in mind. They include visions of me (with slightly less hair) and my wife (still a gorgeous blonde) road tripping through small villages in Ireland, taking our kids and grandkids camping in the Grand Canyon, or enjoying a cold homebrew on our back porch while the grandkids play all over our well-manicured lawn. These pictures look ideal to me.
We all know that the level of comfort and enjoyment we will experience in our “golden years” of retirement has something to do with what we do before we get there. We often assume that putting more money away is the only thing needed to realize a satisfying retirement. That does have much to do with it, but I believe there are equally important efforts to be made in other areas that are often neglected.
Here are some related topics that deserve just as much time and preparation as the actual savings portion because they can dramatically influence the quality of your retirement.
1. Have a clear picture of what you want “to do” in your retirement years. If you are used to working most of the day, you might actually find retirement challenging. Sleeping in, watching “The Price is Right” or “Judge Judy” re-runs, and staring at your spouse all day will likely lose its luster in about two weeks. It’s wise to develop some hobbies and interests before you decide to retire. Some of the more fulfilling experiences of retirees involve volunteering, traveling, part-time “fun” work, church activities, and, of course, grand-parenting.
I encourage a number of my clients who are nearing retirement to take a “retirement goal-setting trip” together or with some close friends. It’s a great way to get excited for your retirement and help develop a clearer picture of what lies ahead. *Just so you know, you don’t have to wait until your 50s to define a clear picture of what you want your retirement to be like (see opening paragraph.) Of course, your picture may change as you get nearer to retirement; but the earlier you think through some of these details with intention, the more likely you are to have your pictures match up when you get there.
2. Develop a healthy lifestyle now. This can be a tough one for us Americans. We often find ourselves coming home from a hard day’s work and just plopping on the couch. We obviously work for a lot of reasons; but if one of them is to retire comfortably and enjoy that phase of life, we need to do what we can to stick around for a while.
One of my greatest mentor’s is often talking to me about living fully to at least age 100. That is a pretty cool goal, and it’s inspiring to see him work toward that goal by regularly running road races all over the world with his wife and adult kids. You don’t have to wear out running shoes to be healthy. Just be mindful of keeping active and eating healthy for a greater purpose.
3. Get acquainted with some new retirement lingo. Many folks are overwhelmed when suddenly faced with a whole new topical vocabulary revolving around themes like Medicare supplements, pension spousal options, social security maximizations, changing health insurance coverages, IRA distributions, and so on.
I encourage you to have some trusted experts in your life who can help you with all these issues when you reach retirement age. But start learning about these topics before then because, trust me, you will have many questions.
Remember, it’s not just about the Benjamins ($) when it comes to realizing a fulfilling and healthy retirement. Get excited about preparing in other ways, so you can make the transition from success in your career to a lifestyle of enjoyment and long-lasting significance.
Matt Atchison, a financial adviser with Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC in Omaha and a Dave Ramsey Endorsed Local Provider of Financial Advice, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* * *