Building a retirement vision

When someone asks you “What are you going to do when you retire?” do you know the answer? One of the first key steps to planning for retirement is to have a retirement vision. After all, this makes intuitive sense because whenever you plan, you need to establish your goals, wants and needs first. The clearer your vision, the better the planning process will be.

The importance of vision

Have you ever tried to do a jigsaw puzzle? What’s the most important piece in a jigsaw puzzle? Some would say the first piece. Others would say the corners. Some have even said the last piece. For me, I think the most important piece is the picture on the box. Think about it. Have you ever tried to put together a puzzle without the picture on the box? Where would you start? The puzzle is not impossible without the picture on the box but it sure makes things a whole lot harder and more time consuming. Think of the picture on the box as the vision.

Deeper and clearer

Like most Canadians, one of my clients, Terry, has the vision of traveling in retirement. While traveling is a great vision or goal, it is important for Terry to dig a little deeper and try to find more clarity in his vision. For example, traveling can mean different things to different people. I know some people who’s idea of traveling is spending a couple of weeks a year with each of the children/grandchildren who live away from home. I know other people who leave for the winter heading south to their second home. I know others who travel to far away places for months at a time staying in hotels, villas and cottages bringing new meaning to the term exploring. For Terry, his vision is most like the later because he still wants to visit some of the different wonders of the world like Manchu Picchu in South America, the Great Wall in China, the Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

The reason you have to dig deep is that each of these visions has very different price tags and time commitments to them. In fact, each of these visions has very different implications on all facets of life.

Building your retirement vision

Here are some thought provoking questions to help you build your retirement vision.

  1. Business Card. When working, the business card is often used as a quick identifier. Far too often, people who identify themselves by their work lose their identity once they stop working. So ask yourself, what would your business card look like when you retire? For Rein Selles, founder of Retirement Challenge, he has a business card that says his title is Captain. On this card is a characture of Rein sailing on his boat. This tells you a little something about Rein and his retirement dream.
  2. Eulogy approach. In this exercise, answering a few questions about your eulogy will help you with your vision by giving you a better sense of who you are and what is important to you. Ask yourself these questions. If you were to write your eulogy, what would you say? What would you want to be said? If you were to write your eulogy 10 years from now, what would you want it to say?
  3. Retirement Activities Brainstorming. Part of establishing a retirement vision is to get a sense of what kinds of things you plan to do in your retirement. In other words, what are you going to do with your time? In this approach, you want to brainstorm different activities. For example, what is your retirement wish list? What do you plan to do with your time in retirement? If you want to dig a little deeper, you may ask yourself what activities you enjoy now. You may also ask yourself what you enjoyed in the past but you are no longer doing now. And finally, you might add what new activities have you always wanted to do but have not done yet?
  4. The last third of your life. If you think about it, retirement is just another phase in your life. According to Gilles Marceau of Canadian Financial Architects, “retirement is a third of your life so what are you going to do with it”. Marceau often asks the question “If you knew you only had 10 summers left, what would you do with those summers.” This exercise really gets you to think about what is important and how to prioritize all the things you want to do. Are you doing the right things with your time?

The message here is really simple. It is much better knowing what you want to do in retirement than not knowing. The clearer your vision, the more likely you are to live retirement as the best years of your life. Be prepared, plan ahead and make your retirement a little more predictable.

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