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Retirement savings

October 08, 2014

Seven questions to ask yourself before you retire

Now that you have your financial plan in shape, you’re almost ready for retirement. Question is: What on earth are you going to do?

Guess what new retirees say their biggest surprise is when they finally leave work? “Seven days of fishing or golf just isn’t as much fun as they thought it would be,” according to Eileen Chadnick, principal and certified coach at Big Cheese Coaching. She and I spoke about the value of a retirement plan that takes more than financial questions into consideration.

“After the immediate [retirement] honeymoon, a life filled exclusively with leisure stops being leisurely,” Chadnick told me. “All rest, no stress, no challenges becomes really very unbalanced. People need to find balance or they will get bored. People who don’t have a plan — who don’t have activities and ways to engage all aspects of their personality — don’t do well in retirement.”

Chadnick counsels her clients to begin thinking about that plan soon after their 40th birthday. If that’s already passed, start now. It’s especially important to begin early if you decide you’d like to do something in retirement that’s dramatically different from what you do now. Some see retirement as an opportunity to begin a new career, for example. If that requires training, work that into your plan.

Don’t wait to think about retirement

“How do you shift gears? You need to get your mind around that and prepare to think about other possibilities for yourself,” she said. “I think people make the mistake of waiting until it’s too late.”

What are you supposed to spend all that time thinking about? Chadnick prepared this checklist of seven questions for us:

  1. What will be most important to you in retirement? What will give you a sense of purpose? What will be your passion?
  2. What kind of work do you want to do, if any? Will it be strictly paid work or include unpaid, volunteer work?
  3. Do you want to remain in your existing career? Would you rather do something entirely different?
  4. Leave aside the financial importance of work for a moment. How important will work be to you in terms of intellectual and social fulfillment?
  5. In the absence of a work schedule, how much structure do you want in your day?
  6. How will you replace some of the good stuff of work: intellectual engagement, challenge and growth opportunities? If you’re not getting the social interaction you had in your workplace, how will you stay connected?
  7. What do you need to stay motivated, inspired and engaged? What do you need to stay healthy, vibrant and resilient?

Clearly, this is not your grandfather’s retirement. It may not look much like your mother’s, either. Chadnick attributes this shift to the baby boom generation and its dedication to active living.

“Boomers will not hang out on the porch,” she said. “Boomers have always been known to defy the rules. Retirement is no different. We get a lot of meaning through work. We want to be relevant in all our life stages.”

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