Here at AgingOptions, we can’t count the number of times we’ve reminded radio listeners and seminar guests that the traditional approach to retirement planning – focusing on finances and virtually ignoring everything else – is (as we say) a recipe for disaster. Sometimes we feel like a voice crying in the wilderness! So it’s gratifying and encouraging to encounter an article on a major financial website that corroborates our point of view.
The article in question is this one that we just encountered on the financial website MarketWatch. The title sounds like something we might have written: “Traditional retirement planning isn’t going to cut it,” it reads. “Do this instead.” We found ourselves nodding as we read what the author, financial planner Mark Jaeger, had to say. “Most traditional financial planning tends to focus on achieving goals throughout life, culminating in something called retirement,” Jaeger says. “But planning for what happens and what you want to do during retirement is often lacking. The word ‘retire’ actually means to withdraw or retreat, which may have been the case after age 65 many decades ago, but that is the opposite of what most people reaching 65 today want to do.”
Jaeger’s article in MarketWatch strikes us as a must-read. He begins by explaining just how much retirement has changed in the 80-plus years since the first Social Security checks were mailed out in 1935. For example: Jaeger points out that in 1900 the average life expectancy in the U.S. was only 47 years, and the total number of Americans 85 and older was barely 100,000. Today those in the 85-plus age group number 5.5 million – and by 2050 that number is expected to top 19 million! Back when Social Security was inaugurated, life expectancy was only 61 , but with today’s healthier diet, safer environment and medical advances, anyone retiring at 66 or 67 can reasonably expect a retirement that will last two or three decades. “The retirement you saw your grandparents — or even your parents — live through will likely not be the retirement you choose for yourself,” Jaeger writes, and we know he’s correct.
One approach Jaeger recommends is to think of your life in four quarters of roughly 25 years each. By the end of the second quarter, you will have turned 50, and you’ll be giving (we hope) serious thought to what lies ahead. The third quarter is marked by pre-retirement – getting your plans in place – followed by the “active phase” of retirement that for most people starts in their late 60s or early 70s. “The third quarter,” says Jaeger, marks a time of transition, “when the idea of retirement morphs from a rather vague concept to a much more concrete awareness, with future plans solidifying as life’s traditional goals are reached.” He adds, “You begin to think about what’s next; you are ready for more flexibility, and the chance to explore what else life has to offer. You also have a greater perspective on what is important in your life, and you desire to be that person, and live that life.”
This sounds very much like the approach we recommend in our LifePlanning process. We also like what Jaeger suggests for the period of your life after retirement. He uses the term “encore life” to describe the period that “begins during, and is an extension of, the third quarter of life.” This, he says, should be “a time of new found freedom and flexibility.” Too often, he implies, people in retirement come to believe that their best and most creative years are behind them, but that’s not so. “The concert has not ended” says Jaeger. Indeed, “the audience is so happy with the performance that they cheer for an encore — expecting to hear the best, most famous songs.” A nice image!
Without going into too much detail, here is a nine-point framework edited slightly for length that the MarketWatch article recommends to enrich the third quarter of your life and prepare you for the “encore” portion. How many of these are part of your plan for life’s next phase?
- Self-rediscovery: Take some time for reflection, asking yourself questions about who you are and what you want to do in the next stage of your life.
- Health and wellness: Address your physical, mental/cognitive, emotional and spiritual health, including diet and nutrition, fitness and exercise.
- Money and financial planning: This includes retirement income planning, estate and philanthropic planning, planning for Social Security, Medicare, long-term care and managing health care costs.
- Family and relationships: Having a strong support network and social interaction with others does wonders for your health and outlook on life.
- Employment or paid work: This includes continued career growth, career change, career transition, and part-time work, either by choice or necessity.
- Community and civic engagement: This is about giving back to your community through involvement in civic, cultural, religious and/or service organizations that you feel close to and strongly about.
- Lifelong learning and personal development: This might be maintaining and developing relevant skills and abilities in order to continue meaningful work, or new learning for personal reinvention, reward and achievement.
- Leisure and entertainment: What you do for fun. This could include travel, entertainment, creative activities, hobbies, and however else you enjoy your free time.
- Lifestyle and housing: This typically involves the transition from living in your current home to downsizing, whether to a smaller home or into a retirement community.
Here at AgingOptions we’ve been following a similar approach for the past decade and a half. We call it LifePlanning, because our planning philosophy encompasses your finances, your legal protection, your medical coverage, your housing options, and your family communication strategy. Some of the items on the nine-point MarketWatch checklist are things you can take care of yourself – deciding what to do for fun, for example, or how much to involve yourself with your community. But for critical elements like housing, finances and medical protection, you definitely need more than good intentions: you need a plan! That’s where LifePlanning becomes indispensable.
Why not accept our invitation and join Rajiv Nagaich at an upcoming LifePlanning Seminar? It’s a terrific way to find out more, without cost or obligation. We have several seminars coming up throughout the Puget Sound area. For dates, times and locations, click here – then register online or call us this coming week. Are you looking forward to the third or fourth quarter of your life? It’s time for a plan – a LifePlan from AgingOptions.
(originally reported at www.marketwatch.com)