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Rethinking Retirement
Written By : Elizabeth Weinstein 
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What does retirement mean to you? Sitting on your porch, rocking and drinking a lemonade, watching the world go buy? Or do you want an active retirement, still engaged in the world, travelling, starting a business, and spending time doing what you really want to do? Are you thinking of retiring early? Are you thinking of retiring now?

With increasing life expectancies and improving health and an increase in planning, the nature of retirement is changing ... for the better. So, how do you make sure that when it comes time to retire, you'll be able to enjoy the lifestyle that you'll want to lead? The answer is effective goal setting and planning for those specific goals.

While once retirement was seen as the culmination of one's working life, today retirement is increasingly viewed more as a life transition. Retiring "early" (usually defined as before eligible for Social Security) means you are still young and healthy, able to pursue hobbies, business interests, and travel.

Today, people in their 60s are generally healthier than past generations and this will only increase further as we live healthier lifestyles and benefit from advances in medicine. Life expectancies are also increasing. In 1935, a 65 year old could expect to reach age 77 ½ . Today, a 65 year old can expect to live to 82 ½ . And, 10 percent of 65 year olds will reach the ripe old age of 98! In the years to come, we can expect this to increase further.

How will you plan for decades of post-employment life?

How Do You Define Retirement?

Traditionally, retirement has been seen as the time when a person leaves the workforce to be supported by a pension, Social Security, and/or other personal assets. However, this typical view of retirement is quickly changing as more and more people are retiring from "employment" to eagerly pursue other activities including:

  • Starting a business or working from home.
  • Working part-time or in rewarding, but low paid, jobs (such as teaching).
  • Volunteering.
  • Managing investments (rental properties or investment portfolios).
  • Engaging in a hobby.
  • Caring for family members
  • Travelling or moving to a vacation area.

Today, retirement is viewed as a time for looking forward rather than lamenting the end of a career. Even more so, many people are leaving employment joyfully to pursue their true interests and goals. But while retirement is now seen as an exciting transition, it's going to take proper planning in order to make the most of it. And an important step in planning for retirement is setting goals.

Why Should I Set Specific Retirement Goals?

Setting retirement goals is vitally important. Defining your goals will allow you to:

  • Plan for your retirement more realistically and effectively.
  • Be more motivated to achieve your goals. For example, you'll know how much you'll need to budget and save now for your goal.
  • Make a smooth transition from full time work to your retirement life.
  • Meet your retirement goals because you'll have a clear idea of what you need to do and how you will achieve those goals.

How Do I Set Retirement Goals?

Setting your retirement goals is much more simple than you may imagine. You already know what you want to do - we just need to bring that information out of you. Spend some time thinking about what it is you want out of retirement and follow this simple exercise.

Step 1: Brainstorming your ideas

Spend 15 minutes brainstorming answers to the following questions. If you are planning for retirement with your spouse, do the following exercise separately. Remember, brainstorming means writing down whatever comes to mind. There are no right or wrong answers. Don't spend too much time thinking about your answers, just right them down.

1. If you received a pension that paid your monthly expenses, what would you do with your time?

2. How would you spend a $100,000,000 lottery prize?

3. Your doctor tells you that you will live to 100 and be healthy both mentally and physically. You will have to gradually reduce your physical activity from age 90. What will you do with your time?

4. Your doctor informs you that you will die painlessly at age 65. Until that time you will feel healthy. How will you spend your time until then?

When you've answered these questions, review your answers. Did you find any surprises? Circle your top 3 answers and move onto Step 2.

Step 2: Set results

Next, think about why you want to that particular goal? What are the results or objectives that you want to achieve for those goals? What is your vision for that goal?

For example, if you want to spend more time with family and friends, is it to spend quality time with grandchildren, holiday with friends or support a less healthy family member? What would you get out of spending that time with your grandchildren? Sounds obvious, but write it down.

This is your motivation. When you decide to save an extra $300 per month for retirement, a theoretical "retirement" goal is not motivating. However, a vision of playing with your grandchildren all summer at the lake house is just the motivation you may need to make a small sacrifice now to reach your ultimate goal.

Step 3: Specify

Specify a dollar amount and time frame for your goals. You may not know exactly how much your goal would cost - but you must specify a reasonable guesstimate so you can create a effective plan. If you need more assistance, contact your financial planner or advisor.

When specifying your goal, you may think of retirement as having multiple stages:

1. Lower or more unpredictable income including part time work, starting a business or managing investments.

2. Active but not earning an income, such as working on hobbies, travelling, volunteering or spending quality time with family.

3. Reduced activity, because of health issues or reduce mobility.

You may also think of retirement as multiple goals, each with their own time frame and monetary requirements:

1. Providing for basic necessities and medical insurance.

2. Provide for potential long-term care needs.

3. Providing for greater, more luxurious lifestyle.

4. Travel.

5. Purchasing and maintaining a vacation home or time-share.

Why Are You Waiting?

Why are you waiting to start the life your really want? The first step is specifying your goals and creating a plan. Even if your goals make take years, or decades, to fully realize, you can being to life that life now. Take time for your hobbies, join organizations involved in your interests, and spend time with family now. Retirement is not an age - it is a state of mind.

Elizabeth Potts Weinstein, JD, a licensed attorney and Registered Investment Advisor, is the founder of Potts Weinstein Financial Consulting, a financial and estate planning firm, headquartered in San Jose, California. The firm specializes in providing fee-only, hourly financial planning, estate planning, and investment advice for people from all walks of life and income brackets. For more information about Potts Weinstein Financial Consulting, or to subscribe to our monthly eZine 'Prosper!', please visit

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