Planning for The Next Stage By Jacob Williams, Ph.D.
Much — probably most — of the discussion about retirement planning centers around the most obvious ingredient: money. But research is increasingly showing that having your finances in order is just one piece of a much more complex puzzle.
One area we don’t discuss enough is the need to mentally prepare for what many report to be the most dramatic transition of their life. This subject gives us so much to cover, it’s not possible to cover it in a single article. We can, however, start with three simple things we can do to mentally prepare for a successful retirement:
- Have realistic (and clear) expectations for the type of lifestyle you will live in retirement.
- Determine what and who is most important in your retirement — values, goals, people, etc.
- Create a plan that prioritizes your time and resources to accomplish point #2.
The research backs these points up.
Research I conducted in graduate school reveals that expectations about retirement affect the overall satisfaction achieved in it.The same is true in retirement. If you expect to enjoy a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous standard of living but don’t have the resources to do so, the tension between those two points may dramatically reduce your satisfaction.
There’s so much research around the importance of purpose, it’s almost become common knowledge. Even so, many of us do not spend any time thinking about it and defining it. We may spend dozens of hours taking care of other aspects of our long-term well-being — paying bills, exercising, communicating with our family and so on — but not spend one-minute thinking about the purpose behind it all.
We know having a purpose in life significantly affects retirement satisfaction (Asebedo & Martin, 2014), but what is a bit surprising is how taking the time to define your purpose affects your satisfaction.In other words, don’t just think about what and who is most important, put it in writing. This leads to…
A plan should be a living document that reflects the answers you came to about who and what are most important and yet has enough
detail to help manage your expectations. In other words, your plan (and perhaps even more importantly, the planning process) is the outcome of the other “simple” steps above. This isn’t a new idea. Many books about achievement —Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich is one example — discuss at length the importance of taking the time to mentally visualize what we want, have a plan to achieve it, then grind away until we achieve it. A plan is central to that. Once you have a plan, you can translate it into baby steps and, over time, turn those baby steps into habits. Our habits, in many
ways, dictate the quality of our life and, ultimately, the quality of our retirement. That’s why, as important as dollars and cents are to retirement planning, a focus on money alone won’t typically be enough to provide the retirement you’ve worked so hard to create.