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Proactive Lifestyle Planning – Your Retirement and Your Well-Being Are at Stake
You can’t believe that the long-awaited day has finally arrived! The promise of this day is the only thing that has sustained you through long work hours, impossible schedules and endless office politics. Unlike most mornings, as you get dressed, you are aware that you are excited to go to work today. After all, it’s the last day of work before you start that much-anticipated, glorious, two-week vacation.
As you begin your daily commute to the office, you feel proud of the decision you made in the short cold days of January. You remember creating that special vacation savings plan so that you have enough money for your vacation. You remember how hard it was to withdraw money each week when there were so many other demands on your paycheck. As you withdrew the money from the account at lunchtime, you realized that you had enough money to go almost anywhere.
In April, your wife suggested you sit down with a travel agent or vacation planner, and you dismissed the idea. You pointed out to her that with the Internet you can do anything a travel agent could do. Besides, travel agents can’t really know what your family likes or dislikes, so how can they do a better job than you can do yourself?
However, on the way home that evening you realize that the long discussed trip to Europe was definitely out of the question for this year. Because you have been very busy for the past few months, no airline or hotel reservations have been made. Even if something became available at the last minute, your passport has expired and you have not been able to renew it.
However, you are not worried at all because there are many things you want to do and many places you want to go. In fact, you realize that multiple possibilities have been the main issue in all of your discussions with your wife. You reason to yourself that it shouldn’t be too difficult to narrow down the list and create a truly memorable vacation.
After you get home that evening, you and your wife decide to set aside all of Saturday morning to plan how you’re going to spend your vacation. However, after a few phone calls the next morning, you realize that the beach vacation you’ve fantasized about all year is not a possibility. All the good places have been booked for months and the only thing you could find was an older rundown property four blocks from the beach.
Traveling to Northern California’s wine country is also off your radar because last-minute airline tickets are overpriced. Even car holidays start to seem problematic because the car needs new tires and the brakes feel a bit spongy. Because of these concerns, you just don’t feel comfortable taking the car on a trip of several thousand miles.
Is this a funny scenario of how to plan a long-awaited vacation? Of course it is! Would you or someone you know wait until the first day of their vacation to decide what to do? Not likely! Most couples would never push it and avoid the obvious questions about how they would like to spend the precious two weeks of their annual vacation.
The terrible irony is that many people will spend far more time planning a two-week vacation with their family than they will spend planning their 25-30 year retirement. Many people will argue with this statement by pointing out that they have been contributing to their 401(k) plan for many years. They feel like they have planned too responsibly for retirement.
However, having a fully funded 401(k) is no better guarantee of a successful retirement than a vacation savings plan is a guarantee of a successful vacation. Money is a small (but certainly important) part of a successful retirement. However, it turns out that the lifestyle aspects of retirement planning are far more important to a successful retirement than money.
Reality Over the past few months, many of us have been stunned by the unprecedented losses in the stock market, the uncertainty of the real estate market and the extremely shaky economy. This situation has caused a lot of stress for many baby boomers who had planned to retire sooner rather than later. Seventy-eight million boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, and 12,000 of that group retire each day, although that number will decrease somewhat due to the economic situation. Do you think the solution to this economic downturn is to delay your retirement for another five to ten years? Please review this decision.
The assumption that you should completely postpone your plans is based on a false premise that retirement is primarily financially based. If you had enough money, you could have a successful retirement. Without realizing it, this can add even more stress to your life. There is already concern about what these next 20 to 30 years will look like. A successful retirement is not just about financial security, but how you plan for the lifestyle you want for this next phase of your life.
The Value of a Plan I have often referred to the old saying, “Failure to plan is planning to fail.” Do you know someone who really wants to fail? Planning for this phase is a good way for you to de-stress and ensure a positive life transition.
You have made many decisions along the way of life. If the decisions you made turned out to be good, you felt satisfied and happy about them and considered yourself lucky. If they were wrong decisions, you may have been disappointed and regretful, wishing you had thought them through more carefully. At this stage in your life, you deserve to take the time to begin exploring all aspects of this transition.
One way to plan for retirement is to use the Life Arenas model. It divides the decisions to be made into six life arenas which allow you to look at your whole life in parts. Life Arenas provide a way for you to begin thinking about this life transition in segments with a series of questions for you to answer. It also provides a format for a dialogue with your partner so that you both have input into the many decisions that need to be made to create the best retirement for you. You will begin to feel more at ease with this transition and confident in its outcome.
The Six Arenas of Life The Six Arenas of Life are the areas where we live every day of our lives. We have careers and jobs we go to. We exercise and take care of our health regularly. We are dealing with financial issues and planning for our financial security. Every day we interact with friends, colleagues and family members. Hopefully there are leisure activities, hobbies and social events that we enjoy. And last but not least, we are striving to be the best we can be by discovering new talents, gifts and giving back to the community. These Arenas of Life do not go away when we retire. In some ways they become even more important.
Consider answering the questions in the following arenas to help you start planning for your retirement.
Career and Work — Does retirement mean you’ll continue to work part-time or full-time with a more relaxed schedule? Are you going to start your own business? Will you volunteer? What will your day look like?
Health and Wellness — How well have you maintained your health practices? What changes can you make to make up for past mistakes and omissions? Do you have a chronic illness that could benefit from more attention?
Finances and Insurance – Have you planned well financially so you can afford the lifestyle you want with the money you have set aside for retirement? What does money mean to you in your life and as a couple?
Family and Relationships — How will you maintain relationships with friends after you retire?
Leisure and Social – Do you have enough interests in your current life to see you through to retirement? Will you be able to maintain social engagements if you are not at work? How strong are your friendships?
Personal Development – Are you open to learning new things? Will you volunteer for a cause you truly believe in? How will you find purpose and meaning in your life?
Linking Wellness and Retirement Planning Whether it’s your dream vacation or your retirement, proactive planning is required. Planning in all Areas of Life greatly increases the likelihood of a positive outcome for your retirement. Take action now by addressing the sociological aspects of retirement. Reduce the stress and frustration caused by not having a plan. You can expect a positive transition of life in retirement if you have planned well and experienced readiness in all the Arenas of Life mentioned above.
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