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You’re Not Ready to Retire until You’ve Answered This Key Question

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So you think you’re ready for retirement? You have your financial plan in place and you’re pretty certain you know what you need to know about Medicare and Social Security? That’s a good start, but it’s nowhere near enough. Because comprehensive preparation for a fruitful retirement is what we’re all about at AgingOptions, we wanted to revisit this article we discovered last year on the Kiplinger financial website. It tells us that no one is really ready to retire until they’ve asked and answered this key question: “What do I want the next chapter of my life to look like?”

You Need a Plan!

We like this article, written by financial expert Barbara Shapiro, because it echoes something we tell our clients, seminar guests and radio listeners repeatedly: you’ll never achieve the type of retirement you’ve dreamed about unless you have a plan. What’s more, the kind of planning that will get you where you want to go takes time and careful thought. As Shapiro writes, “The majority of clients who are happily retired spent a great deal of time thinking and planning for it.” She says she asks her clients who are in their 60’s if they have given retirement any thought. “Most of them have,” says Shapiro, “but are having difficulty formulating a plan.”

Part of the planning problem, the Kiplinger article suggests, is that many people concentrate on the “mechanics” of retirement (typically financial) without spending enough time thinking and talking about the “emotions” of retirement. Most of us are so used to working at our regular jobs that it’s a challenge to imagine what life will be like when we no longer have to pick up the briefcase or punch the time clock.

“Touchy-Feely Questions”

That’s why when Barbara Shapiro’s clients want to know when they can “afford to retire” – the question on the lips of many retirees – she first has them discuss and answer some fairly “touchy-feely” questions, such as:

  • Describe what you envision yourself doing the first week of retirement. How does it make you feel?
  • If you’re married, how does your spouse feel about retiring?
  • Do you want to stay in your home or move?
  • Do you want to live in warm weather or cold?
  • How’s your current health?
  • Do you want to leave a legacy to your loved ones or spend all of your money?

Why does Shapiro put them through this emotional exercise? In our opinion, it’s because she recognizes an essential truth about retirement. “Before we even discuss whether they can afford to retire,” Shapiro says, “I want to see where they are psychologically and emotionally. If they’re not ready mentally, then all the money in the world won’t buy them a fulfilling retirement.” We concur wholeheartedly.

Stages of Retirement

Writing in the Kiplinger article, Shapiro says that retirement – which used to last a few years but now can last two decades or more – comes in stages. The first stage is when new retirees act like they’re on what she calls “a long-term vacation.” They go back to school, take fun and interesting courses just because they can, and may even take a stab at a new profession. “Most new retirees increase their travel, dine out more and attend the movies, theater or symphony more frequently than they did prior to retirement,” says Shapiro. “They are redefining themselves and their new lifestyle.”

During the second stage of retirement, after the novelty wears off, many retirees settle down into “a slower, more mundane lifestyle,” still going out but also enjoying their time at home. During this phase, “Physical issues may start to present themselves,” says Shapiro. “For example, they may not feel comfortable driving at night and switch to meeting friends for lunch instead of dinner.” Finally in the third stage of retirement most seniors are no longer able to live independently. Some age in place with in-home help, while others move to various types of senior living and senior care facilities.  In our view, the point here is to think and plan ahead for all three phases of retirement and make certain your loved ones understand and support your wishes. That way you’re far more likely to protect your assets, avoid become a burden, and guard against one day being moved into a nursing home against your will.

More Than Money

Is money important? Absolutely – but it’s no panacea.  “Clearly, the amount of available money influences how, when, and where someone retires,” Shapiro concludes. “The greater the resources, the more options one might have; however, every potential retiree needs to have a well-thought-out game plan in place that makes sense for them both financially and emotionally.” At AgingOptions, our term for that kind of plan is a LifePlan. It includes all the elements you need to make sure your plan will see you through each phase of a happy and successful retirement. An AgingOptions LifePlan incorporates a financial plan, a legal plan, a housing plan, a medical plan and a family plan. It helps you ask and answer the types of questions suggested in the Kiplinger article. Best of all, it becomes your road map to get you where you want to go in your retirement years.

Why not invest a few hours and find out more about this dramatically different approach to retirement planning. Come join us at an upcoming AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar. These popular events take place at convenient locations throughout the region, so click here for all the details, and then sign up online or call us during the week. Let us help you achieve the retirement of your dreams with an AgingOptions LifePlan.

(originally reported at

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