Question Your Retirement: An Important Planning Step

If retirement is on your radar, no doubt you’re hearing advice and recommendations from financial advisors, your spouse or partner, and well-meaning relatives and friends. The trouble is, it’s often easy to tune them out, for several reasons.

You might believe you’ve heard their advice before. You might be busy with day-to-day life or not understand the importance of critical retirement decisions. Or you might just be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of information that’s competing for your attention.

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However, ignoring critical decisions can be detrimental to your wellbeing, quality of life, and finances in retirement. It turns out that for many retirement decisions, one expert you should consult is you!

Research has showed that people are often more engaged with important decisions if they actively initiate the inquiry themselves instead of passively hearing others’ opinions. For example, in a recent survey conducted for the Stanford Center on Longevity, almost two-thirds of pre-retirees and recent retirees reported that they’d be encouraged to do more retirement planning if they were asked thought-provoking questions.

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So, let’s look at some of the questions you can ask yourself about your retirement to help you plan for the type of retirement you’d like. Let’s start with these:

Questions about the life you want in retirement

  • What would a successful retirement look like for you?
  • What’s still on your bucket list?
  • What would a good “average day” look like for you? This wouldn’t include doing any of items on your bucket list.
  • What kind of retiree/senior/elder/grandparent do you want to be?
  • Who do you want to spend time with during your retirement?
  • What would be the ideal community for your retirement years?
  • What type of house could best meet your needs after you retire?

Answering these questions can help you more easily move on the important decisions that impact your finances.

Now let’s get into more detail and answer these questions:

Questions regarding decisions that will help support the life you want

  • When would you like to retire? How will you decide when to retire?
  • Do you know what your living expenses might be in retirement? Have you developed a budget?
  • Do you have a plan for developing sources of retirement income that can cover your living expenses?
  • Will you be able to live in your current house if you or your spouse become frail later in life?
  • Do you have a plan if you reach a stage in your life when you’re no longer able to manage your day-to-day finances?

When’s the right time to ask these questions?

Ideally, you’d start exploring your answers at least five years before you plan to retire. But if you haven’t already started and you’re closer than that or even retired, it’s better late than never!

It might take some time for you to reflect on these questions, but that’s OK—important decisions deserve your time and attention. Also, remember that your thinking might evolve as you explore your answers and approach your planned retirement date. It might turn out that your journey of reflecting on the questions may be as enlightening as the answers themselves. Along the way, you might find even more questions to ask yourself.

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One word of advice: You might be more engaged and enlightened if you discuss these questions with your spouse or partner, or with close friends and relatives. Try bringing these topics up during a long drive, at the dinner table or cocktail hour, or at parties.

Question your retirement! Your life will be better for it.

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