Are you traveling this summer? Anticipating a vacation can be lots of fun… whether you stay close to home or venture far away, thinking about where you will go and what you will do should fill you with expectation and delight. After all, this is your time. The same could be said about anticipating your retirement years. Just like a good vacation, a rewarding retirement is achieved more easily with a little pre-trip planning. Here are my top 3 tips in preparing for your retirement “trip”:
Let’s get rid of the idea that budgeting means skimping out and “being cheap.” Smart budgeting means that you DO the things you value most highly, then fill in the rest within your means. Budgeting helps you to make smart choices. This mindset is true whether you are planning for vacation or planning for retirement.
Start by asking yourself, “What is the single most important thing?” When vacationing, my husband and I like to talk about this before a trip by asking, “What is the one thing that I will look back on, that will make me feel that this was a success?” Asking this helps to keep you focused, to get past the inevitable bumps along the way, and to enjoy what you have.
In retirement planning, it’s a similar game. If you think about what the most important thing is, you can plan for it, setting yourself up for a more enjoyable experience. What’s the one thing that you feel will make your retirement “successful”? Is it spending time with the grandkids? Engaging in hobbies like gardening or golf? Traveling to new places or old favorites?
Now keep that “one thing” in mind as you plan your budget. Budgeting doesn’t have to be super-detailed; it can be as simple as thinking about four basic buckets: food (groceries and eating out), lodging (housing expenses including utilities, insurance, and taxes), travel (including car and related expenses), and entertainment/recreation (lifestyle). If you want to splurge in one area, you need to be creative in how you will save in a different area, so it all evens out.
- People / Things to Do
On a vacation, you need to think about who’s coming along. Will you be traveling with kids? People with special needs, such as a wheelchair or walker? Does anyone have special medications, devices, or dietary restrictions to consider as you make your travel choices?
How about your travel style? Do you prefer to hit the ground running, or take it slow? Do you like to visit historical sites, cultural events and concerts, sports events, shopping, or relaxing by the pool? How about your travel companions? How do you accommodate for different styles and make sure everyone has a good time?
Believe it or not, this same negotiation should be considered in retirement. In asking yourself about “the most important thing” (above), you need to consider who will be participating in that activity with you (and who won’t). Have you talked to your family, kids, and friends about what type of lifestyle you prefer after retirement? How about your spouse? Do your styles mesh well, or will there need to be adjustments and compromises? Talking about this now, before the “trip” starts, is a smart thing to do. Communication can help to prevent unpleasant surprises – or at least open up a dialogue for how to handle surprises when they do occur.
- Packing / Luggage
What do you pack when going on vacation? Well, it all depends on where you are going, what you are doing, and how you prefer to travel. Priorities and needs change when traveling. Similarly, priorities change post-retirement. What may have been essential during your working years (having a certain car or clothing, for example) may become less important in retirement. On the other hand, things that you may not have even thought about while working (that noise that the refrigerator makes) may become very important after you retire. Retirees are sometimes surprised by this, but if you are a savvy planner and you have thought about your “most important thing” (above), you’re less likely to be thrown off guard.
Also in the “packing” category is the idea of Currency exchange. How will you obtain money during your trip? Depending on where you go, access to money may differ from what you’re used to at home. The same can be said for retirement. How will you receive your “paycheck”? Monthly, quarterly, or as needed? Do you want a set amount that doesn’t change, or do you desire more flexibility? There are plenty of tools out there for this, depending on your preferences and needs. Often, talking to an unbiased advisor about your options is a good choice for pre-retirees. Just like making packing choices before a trip, doing your research and “packing the right tool” can be crucial to your comfort and peace of mind.
Planning for your retirement, like planning for an upcoming vacation, shouldn’t take the fun out of your adventure! Instead, planning should help you to anticipate and build excitement. After all, you want to create the best possible experience for yourself and your companions – one that will have you saying to others: “Wish you were here!” ?