Retirement goal setting

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
— Carl G. Jung

Ask someone what they want to do when they retire and most people will give a response that has something to do with travel. There’s nothing wrong with traveling in retirement but the reality is it’s something you so some of the time and not something you do most of the time. So if all your retirement plans center around the 3 to 6 weeks you are going to travel and get away from everyday life, then what are you going to do the other 46 to 49 weeks of the year?

Planning starts now

Are you ready for retirement? The whole point of planning is to look into the future to make the future as predictable as possible. Waiting until retirement to try new things is can work for some but it’s better to try and look forward to plan to do things you will enjoy and love and has meaning and purpose to your life.

Questions to help you plan your retirement lifestyle

Questions make you think and help you to plan your future lifestyle. Here are some questions that might help you thnk about some retirement goals for your future. Do your best to respond to the following.

  1. What is my overall retirement vision? The point of answering this question is to get to your underlying value system and define what’s really important in your life. Some businesses are encouraged to come up with a guiding mission statement. I would say your retirement vision statement is much the same thing.
  2. What is my retirement to-do list? When you retire, it is unlikely you will just do one thing like travel. Instead, you are likely to do many things. What kids of things will you do? What is your retirement to-do list? Some call it a bucket list. Some call it the dream list. Whatever it is, this list can be a great foundation for setting future retirement goals.
  3. What about work will you miss when you retire? If you left work today, what about work would you miss? The people? The money? The challenge? If you are going to miss the people at work, then it may be important to develop some activities and goals for retirement to be around people.

Set specific goals

The clearer your retirement vision, the easier it will be for you to develop your overall plan and set some specific retirement goals. I recently found a resource on the MD Financial site called the Goal Setting Matrix that I thought was pretty useful for retirement goal setting. The resource suggests that you break your goals down into short term vs longer term priorities and also goals you Need vs goals you want.

Take a piece of paper and divide it into 4 quadrants:

  1. In the upper left box, list goals that you NEED to accomplish sooner than later
  2. In the upper right box, list goals that you NEED to accomplish but over the longer term
  3. In the bottom left box, list goals that you WANT to accomplish sooner than later
  4. In the bottom right box, list goals that you WANT to accomplish but over the longer term.
Short term Goals you NEED to accomplish Longer term goals you NEED to accomplish
Short term goals you WANT to accomplish Longer term goals you WANT to accomplish

After finishing the exercise, it should be easier to define some of your key retirement goals:

My top 5 SHORT TERM GOALS are:

My top 5 LONG TERM GOALS are:

One last thought

A clear vision will give you confidence about moving into retirement and increase the chances that you will have a happy retirement. Having clarity helps reduce the retirement anxiety that seems to plague so many people.

To give you one last idea to plan your retirement lifestyle and think about some retirement goals, finish this paragraph and see what you come up with:

My IDEAL DAY in retirement will be . . .


  1. Annette

    Hi Jim
    Thanks for all of the adviceand here’s a question.
    My husband will have a much larger Canada Pension than mine. He also has a pension from work and I have none. Do you have an opinion on a spouse splitting his CPP with lower income person on retirement?

  2. Roger @ The Chicago Financial Planner

    Jim great post, equally applicable here in the U.S. as well.

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