Planning the best retirement ever

Let me start by stating the obvious. Life, at any stage, should never be defined by money. Despite the Beatles singing “Give me money – that’s all I want,” it is NOT all you want!

Yet, if you Google “retirement planning,” financial planning is about all you get. I looked through the first four pages of results and despite some of the headings that promise things like “the most important things you need to know to retire”, the stories are still about money! It seems that the world has tricked us into believing that, if we get our finances right in retirement, the rest will fall into place automatically. The truth is – it’s most unlikely to fall into place! Retirement planning requires decisions and action on many more important things than finances. Things like a grey divorce, the collapse of your health and the loneliness that come from a collapse in your friendship network, can make running out of money seem insignificant.

You get to choose choose whether your retirement years will be the best years of your life or the worst time of your life.  Whether it’s good or bad can depend at least in part, on how well you choose. So, how do you begin to make you retirement the best ever?

Step 1. Choose what’s important to you.

Imagine you have just retired, and your doctor calls you in and says you have only three good years to live. After you got over the shock of the news, what things would you want to do or achieve in those three years? I believe we all ought to make a bucket list now of how you would live for the next three years even if you have been retired for a while.  You never know tomorrow may be the day you get that news!

There may be some broken relationships that you would like to restore. There may be places to go and things you have always wanted to do. There may be some activities you want to do or a boat to build or a model to make or something to learn about. So what would be on your bucket list if you had just three years to live? I guarantee it won’t include putting more money in to your superannuation scheme!

This list should form the basis of the first (or next) few years of your retirement. Give yourself a few months to get over work and then get on with the list. If you are like me, your estimate of how long they will take to complete, will probably be wrong and it may take you longer than three years. But at least you will have some sort of plan of what to do.  If you can’t think of anything to put on your list, have a look at this blog.

Step 2. Get your documents sorted out NOW.

  1. Organise an enduring power of attorney and an advance health directive. You must do this before any form of memory loss sets in. In Australia, contact your local community legal centre for some free advice and cheap options. You can also find a Queensland Government form and advice on filling it in here. If you aren’t from Queensland, you should find your state governments equivalent web page because there may be differences between states.
  2. Prepare or revise your will and choose an executor. Those who know about these things say you should review your will every 3 to 5 years and whenever your life takes a dramatic turn.  You should also make sure your executor knows where to find you will. See this blog.
  3. Review any life insurance schemes. CentreLink in Australia considers the withdrawal value of life insurance as an asset but not funeral insurance. With funeral insurance however, you are relying on the organisation behind the policy to implement the agreement when you die. I know of a few people whose family got nothing after the person died. It is also worth pondering whether you need more life insurance in the fourth quarter of your life than what your funeral will cost. However If you have nominated a beneficiary for your life insurance policy, then your life insurance policy will not be included in your Estate.  So checked your life insurance policies now.
  4. Have a thorough health check & review your health insurance. Look for hereditary health issues and of course prostate issues. Prostate cancer is the largest cancer effecting men in Australia. So get a PSA check NOW.

Step 3. Plan ways to improve your marriage.

One of the greatest issues facing Australians is the rate of divorce for people age 55+. In Australia, whilst the overall divorce rate has decreased in the last 20 years, it has risen significantly among people of retirement age – see this blog.  If you don’t want to be part of that statistic, plan ways to improve your marriage and begin today. Whether you like it or not, you will spend a whole lot more time with your spouse when you retire, and so you face a choice – to make that time the best it can be, or slide into a lonely life. If you need some help working out where to begin see this blog.

Step 4. Work out ways to replace your work hours

Whatever you thought of your work prior to retiring, it provided you with some structured activities for most of your time so you need to find  some USEFUL activity to replace that huge part of your life. For the first couple of years of my retirement, I did University courses about subjects I was interested in. I did a course on developing software, the Jewish view of the Old Testament, the Dead Sea scrolls and a few other free courses I found. So make yourself a curiosity list – what things are you curious about?  You probably aren’t interested in any of the things I am, but you may be interested in other things so go to Edx.org and choose something that takes your fancy. There are a huge number of courses you can choose from and many are free.

Step 5. Work out how to give back to the world.

It may mean finding someone you can help – like that elderly neighbour who can’t mow their lawn anymore or like that kids program that needs some assistance setting up each week or the local church or community group who need a handyman to fix things for them or many other things in your community. It probably means volunteering some time in some organisation. You can find out where you can volunteer in Australia here.

Volunteering won’t work for everybody because in 2010, the volunteer rates for adults by age group were:

Overall – 36.2% of the adult population.

  • 45-54 years– 44%
  • 55-64 years – 43%
  • 65+ years – 31%

So only about ⅓ of people of retirement age find some useful way of volunteering and, in fact, that’s less than those who are not retired! But if you can find a place to volunteer, then just do it!

Many blokes think they might get part time work in their retirement wherever they can find it.  Be careful because the simple truth is: successful part-time work (and volunteering) requires the right mindset, a little creativity, and of course, a good plan. Retirees need to approach the job market with realistic expectations and goals. Too often, people wrongly assume that they’ll be able to work the perfect schedule and set their own wage. That’s never been my experience and is unlikely to become yours, just because you retired. So set realistic expectations for your role with the organisation. That means asking about an exit strategy before you begin volunteering, in case you feel uncomfortable, or it doesn’t match your skills, or causes a physical challenge, or doesn’t meet other expectations. 

Step 6. Work out a plan to replace your current social network.

You social network often collapses when you retire because the people you have socialised with over your working life will probably keep working. Rebuilding a network in your 60’s or 70’s can be tricky but things like attending a gym class, the mens shed and church (or all of these) can be a great source of social connections. They may also be a source of frustration so stick at your plan for a while to give it a real go but have a backup plan as well. The truth is, you need people more than you realise and unless you get lucky, most people aren’t just waiting for you to arrive in their life. You may have to put in considerable effort in finding people you can relate to. You will live longer than the previous generation and if you get this right you will live even longer! The statistics tell us those who are socially isolated, have a much shorter life span than those who are well connected socially. So you should prepare well for that long life. See this blog to help you.

Step 7. Plan to travel with purpose.

Don’t just go somewhere. Go somewhere where you can do something significant to you. If you have wondered about why Israel is in the news so much – go and find out. If you have wondered why some African countries have issues go and find out but go with a purpose like David did in this blog. If you have read about the adventures of St Paul for years, go to the places he went and discover why he wrote some of the things he did.

Make sure there is a reason to go someplace AND do some research before you get there. There’s nothing worse than getting home and finding out that you missed something significant. We recently travelled to Zion National Park in the USA and when we got home we discovered there is a slot canyon there that I’d love to have seen. If you don’t know what a slot canyon is, Google it. They can be fantastic places to see when there is no rain around. See this blog.

Step 8. Plan some healthy habits.

I actually joined a Gym a few years before I retired to get into the habit of getting fit and staying that way. I’m so glad I did. Being fit sure beats not being fit. Of course you don’t have to join a gym, but you do have to make plans and carry them out. You could work out which bush walks are around you and go and do them or figure out how far two kilometres is from your home (or 5 or 10) and plan to walk that distance two or three times each week. Heres a checklist for your health in Microsoft word format. Let me know if you can’t read it and I’ll email you a plain text one. Retirement health checklist

Step 9. Work out what your purpose in life is.

This is vital at any age but becomes crucial when you retire because you have to restructure your life and your work identity evaporates. If you haven’t read “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren, get it and read it today.  It is the best selling book in the world behind the bible. You desperately need to work out who you are and why you are on earth. This blog might help you.

Step 10. Pay some attention to finances.

Just don’t spend all your time trying to work it out! If you are nearing retirement, them most of what will happen is already in place. Have a look at this blog for more help and stop worrying about this aspect of retirement.

Step 11. Stay connected to this website

We write stories each week to help you navigate the best phase of your life. We don’t try and sell you anything. We don’t even ask for your email address. So come back each week and find out what we have in store for you.

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