What Are You Going to Be When You Retire?

Many, many years ago, part of the annual routine around my childhood birthdays was the inevitable “what are you going to be when you grow up?” interview with my Uncle Thomas. He was always very careful to emphasize the word “be."

Each year I’d confidently announce my latest career idea and he would respond with a lengthy pronouncement on the wisdom and social importance of my aspirations and concluded with the observation that my choice was a very worthy one...  then he gave me some money. Not a lot of money, but it went straight into my piggy bank to fund important future events like a new inner tube repair kit for my ever-demanding bicycle.

We will never know whether the world is a better place for my failure to become a locomotive engineer or bicycle repair man, but the practice of imagining and re-imagining my future has stayed with me. Maybe that’s why I gravitated to a profession that helps others plan for theirs. I wonder if Uncle Tom realized the significance of his phrasing. If he could ask the same question of me now, I’d tell him I want to be happy, safe, secure, useful, active, engaged, curious and creative.

Financial considerations are of course the bottom line when it comes to the timing of retirement, but not how it’s defined: that’s up to our imaginations.  Having enough money to live on ensures choices, not happiness. Good advisors want to know how you "feel" about your future.

The big chicken or egg question about retirement planning is how much money will we need to fund our future lifestyle choices or what lifestyle we will be able to afford based on the money available.  A good advisor stimulates conversation around both. In my experience, most of us have more options than perhaps we realize.

We live in a country that recognizes the “pursuit of happiness” as an individual freedom. A good retirement plan tests for concerns, gets us through our anxieties and fears, creatively solves for stability and security, AND actively encourages individual fulfillment.

Plan early, plan often and decide what you want to be when you retire.