4 Essential Retirement Planning Questions

Everyone understands the value of careful financial planning prior to making the move into retirement. But it is equally important to plan for the daily life you will live as a retiree. An effective retirement plan addresses both the financial and the lifestyle side of retiring. These four questions will help you finalize your retirement plans.

How much will you need to live the retirement lifestyle you want? Many of us have a vivid picture of the life we hope to live in retirement. There are things we want to do and places we want to go. Most of us hope to experience and take advantage of our well-deserved status as free-wheeling retirees. A fulfilling retirement should allow us to pay our bills as well as enjoy the pursuit of our passions and dreams.

How much you must save to allow you to do the things you want is based upon the retirement lifestyle you envision. A good plan should include an element of frugality along with plenty of common sense. But we do not want to miss out on things we have always wanted to do now that we finally have time to enjoy ourselves. I find it helpful to think in terms of having paid my dues and earned the freedom to do what I really want. Sometimes I have to do without one thing to subsidize another. And don’t overlook the fact that you could enjoy 20 or 30 years of retired living. Both your time and money need to be budgeted for the long term.

At what age do you hope to retire? Not everyone is able to retire at age 65. Some of us wish to continue working while others may be forced to retire early due to a job loss or health issues. But if you can decide, when would you start your second act? You don’t want to delay retirement so long that you find yourself too old to enjoy the things you planned for. And you don’t want to retire prematurely without sufficient savings to fund your future. The age you decide to retire will significantly impact your financial situation. You will also need to determine when to start receiving Social Security benefits and begin to tap into IRA and 401(k) plans, all of which will factor into your retirement budget. It is a complex decision with lots of moving parts that should not be taken lightly.

If you are married, you also need to factor in your partner’s retirement timing. Chances are slim that you will both retire on the same day. Differences in ages can make it financially beneficial for one of you to keep working. A partner who retires earlier can test the waters to get a better understanding of what retirement truly entails. Their firsthand experience may smooth the transition when the time comes for their spouse to join them.

How will you make each day interesting? If you roll into retirement unprepared to make the most of your free time you could run out of things to keep you engaged. You have to know what you are going to do once you retire. After saving for so long, no one wants to find themselves bored in retirement.

Now that I am retired, I am learning what it takes to keep each day interesting. To occupy myself I need a variety of things to do, including hobbies, passions and new adventures. I have also discovered that if I do not keep myself mentally active I begin to slow down. I need challenges and new situations to keep myself engaged. I try to dedicate a part of each day to physical activity to encourage good health. I have a routine of daily exercise and walking, blogging and writing, online history classes, an iPhone app to learn French, my newly discovered interest in cooking, reading, playing the piano and gardening. My wife entertains a passion for jigsaw puzzles, yoga and Sudoku. And we typically converge at some point in the day for a heated round of backgammon, Scrabble or gin rummy. It is important to keep adding activities, and we are always on the lookout for new avenues to explore.

Will work be part of your retirement? Not everyone is happiest away from work. Some people get a kick out of the job. Co-workers provide a social tie that can be hard to replace. Achieving goals and meeting challenges can keep you feeling alive and important. Unfortunately, not everyone has the option to keep working as companies change direction or hire younger employees eager to be promoted. Retirement can be the chance to try your hand at running your own business, especially if you have always dreamed of taking a shot at becoming an entrepreneur. Even if you are not working full time, some part of your day dedicated to a regular job could make you happier in retirement.

When it comes to planning for your retirement, the important thing is to get started. Don’t wait until you arrive to begin planning how you will spend your time. Deciding what you will do before retirement gives you the opportunity to test things out and make changes so that all you need to do is fine tune during your retirement years.

Written for US World & News

Finding Inspiration in Retirement

Do you remember as a kid when a new day rolled in and you could hardly wait to get up and get to it? As soon as the sun was out you were ready. There was nothing better than opening your eyes and feeling the excitement of not knowing exactly what was in store, but anticipating a multitude of possibilities that could be. Each day held the promise of something new. Perhaps a best friend in the neighborhood awaited your attention. Maybe a new bike enticed you to ride off into the day. Whatever the specifics, it was wonderful in that moment to feel energized, hopeful and expectant.

As time passed, that idyllic childhood evolved into a career, and for the next 30 years the focus was on fulfilling the duties of your job. Not all mornings begin with the same excitement you felt as a youngster. In fact, sometimes it took all the will power you could muster just to get up and get yourself to work.

By the time retirement rolls in, it is not always easy to resurrect the simple passion for living that was second nature not so very long ago. The burdens of years lived can weigh upon us, too often transforming carefree optimistic people into down-to-earth realists. Challenges continue to manifest, and we often struggle to transition into our second act.

It’s up to you to remember how to find enjoyment in the little pleasures life has to offer. Now that you are retired you have more control over how you choose to spend your day. Finding a little inspiration can make the difference between existing and enjoying a satisfying retirement. Here’s where to look for inspiration for your second act.

Family. Spending more time with family is often a top retirement priority. We often have many shared experiences to relive and new happenings to relate. Sometimes we also have a lot in common with our loved ones. My son and I are in many ways mirror images. Often when I see a picture on his Facebook page I take a second look, swearing the image is that of a younger me. His sense of humor is similar to mine, and his love of animals and fanatical loyalty to the San Jose Sharks came right from Dad. When I spend time with him I feel proud of all he has become as well as a certain satisfaction that I had a little something to do with it.

My wife is Swiss and has a wonderful family spread across Switzerland. Over the years we have visited and hosted many happy travelers. The next generation is reaching an age when they are venturing out to explore the world around them. When visiting, they quickly find themselves sharing our love of California and regaling us with fun stories of their day’s adventures. Their youthful exuberance and endless energy helps us to recharge as we bask in its glow.

Creative pursuits. Although the working world jealously hoards time we may otherwise use to explore hidden talents, retirement can be the perfect venue to delve into our creativity. You can pursue whatever sparks your interest now that you have free time. My aunt took up oil painting later in life and has produced some colorful creations that grace the walls of family members. A friend spends his spare moments taking amazing photographs. Another aunt had taken up square dancing. You don’t have to worry about how good the end result may be. This new activity should be about doing what you want and enjoy.

Travel. Back in school I was never very interested in geography. I did not care to learn about people and places beyond my immediate neighborhood. These days I cannot learn enough about other cultures. I find the history, food, fashion, distinctive architecture and wonderful idiosyncrasies of the local population all incredibly interesting. I love to walk the neighborhoods, heading nowhere in particular and uncovering hidden treasures along the way. And I don’t necessarily have to travel far to find interesting destinations. There is plenty to see within driving distance. For me, the planning that goes into a pending trip is almost as much fun as the trip itself. Anticipation and a little research behind the scenes prior to embarking can make travel even more inspiring and rewarding.

Retirement can become boring if we don’t take steps to prevent it. Taking up creative pursuits or travel can help break up the monotony. These inspiring activities will enhance your retirement years and help you to make the most of your second act.

Written for my blog on US News & World