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The Key to a Happy Retirement is Planning, Says MarketWatch – and Not Just Financial Planning

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We’re always a bit skeptical here at AgingOptions when we encounter an article – especially in a financial website like MarketWatch – with a title like, “Everything You Need to Do Before You Retire.” Nine times out of ten, it’s an article about saving more, spending less, adjusting your portfolio, and so on. In other words, the “everything” is really about one thing: your money.

Retirement Planning Means Preparing for “a Monumental Transition”

So we were pleasantly  surprised at this MarketWatch article from mid-February that approached the entire challenge of retirement planning a bit more like we would – holistically. “Retirement is a monumental transition in a person’s life,” says the article, “and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Every aspect of life is affected by the decision to retire, including relationships, health and wellness, and of course finances.”   For that reason, it’s unwise, even dangerous, to move into retirement without careful and comprehensive preparation. As one financial planner told MarketWatch, “The key to a happy retirement is in the planning done during the years leading up to retirement – not just financial planning but taking the time to envision their lives in retirement.”

A big part of success in retirement has to do with our mindset, the article emphasizes. We at AgingOptions strongly agree.  “Instead of thinking of retirement as moving away from something – in this case the workplace – near-retirees should think about what they’re retiring toward.”  As we’ve written before here on the blog, many retirees who fail to think along these lines give up their job when they retire only to end up losing their feeling of self-worth.  “Going into retirement without a plan can have a detrimental effect on a retiree, throwing them into a depression or even an early death,” MarketWatch warns. “Inadequate savings can send someone into a tailspin, but so too can feeling as though they’ve lost their sense of purpose or identity.” Another article from the same website, titled “Why Retirement Can Be a Dangerous Time,” put it like this: “Calling it quits after decades in the workforce jolts people from their routines, and causes them to lose their sense of self.”  This can be especially prevalent in cases of early retirement due to disability, layoffs, or the need to care for a loved one.

Retirement Planning Means Putting the Critical Elements Together

Does the MarketWatch article really describe “everything you need to do before you retire”? In our estimation, not really, but it does a somewhat better job than most. The author creates something of a “laundry list” approach to retirement planning, including areas like Budgeting, Social Security, Withdrawing from Assets, Health Care, Relationships and Lifestyle. What’s missing, we think, is any “connective tissue” joining these pieces to each other. We believe, based on nearly two decades of experience with thousands of people, that retirees and their families are better served by a more comprehensive approach to retirement planning that really helps them understand how the key elements all work together. We’ll describe that approach, called LifePlanning, in a moment. First, without going into too much detail, here are some of the main points of the MarketWatch recommendation.

  • Budgeting: The MarketWatch article suggests some pretty commonsense stuff: list your expenses, predict your income, and try to plan for contingencies. “Both spouses should take part in managing finances,” the article says. “One may want to handle the checkbook, but they should both have a say in how the money is spent to avoid financial disagreements down the road.” This does seem like good advice. But a better approach, we think, is to sit down with a qualified adviser and prepare a retirement dashboard, a process we can describe for you if you contact AgingOptions.
  • Social Security: Not much new here. We do agree that you follow the recommendation to visit the Social Security website and create a My SSA account (which you can do here). It helps safeguard your benefits from fraud and provides you with the best predictions about your future income and your optimum claiming strategies.
  • Asset Withdrawal: This is about more than Required Minimum Distribution and the “four percent rule.” It’s about how you and your spouse feel about spending, saving and investing. As one adviser told MarketWatch, “Advertisers show couples sharing blissful retirement years together so that people assume having common goals is the norm. However, in real life, the first years of retirement are the most challenging because people move from focusing on their individual careers to considering how to spend their finite retirement resources of time and money together.”
  • Health Care: The author glosses over many of the key pieces of the health care puzzle, including finding the right insurance coverage, deciding how to fund long term care, and choosing the right physician (a geriatrician, we recommend). Not enough here.
  • Relationship: The MarketWatch article focuses on communication between spouses, which is vitally important – but there’s no mention of communication with family. “The biggest challenge for any couple is being on the same page with goals,” one adviser said, and we agree, but unless your loved ones are fully informed about and supportive of your retirement goals, you’re asking for trouble in the future.

Retirement Planning Means an AgingOptions LifePlan

While the MarketWatch article overlooks some important elements, it’s a good start. People heading towards retirement often make the mistake of thinking that a little financial planning is all that’s required, when in fact most financial plans are woefully inadequate. What about your medical coverage – will that protect you? What if you have to make a change in your housing status – will that knock your financial plan off course? Are you adequately prepared legally for the realities of retirement and estate planning? And as we said above, does your family understand and support your plans for the future as you age? The best way we know of to successfully blend all these elements together – finance, medical, housing, legal and family – is with a LifePlan from AgingOptions.

We invite you to join the thousands who have discovered the power of LifePlanning by attending a free LifePlanning Seminar at a location near you. Invest just a few hours and you’ll come away with your eyes opened to a brand-new way to think about retirement. You’ll find a calendar of upcoming seminars here on our Live Events page – then register online or give us a call. Make certain your retirement planning is truly comprehensive and complete: come discover the power of an AgingOptions LifePlan.  Age on!

(originally reported at

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