How To Plan For The Retirement You Want
Article written by Scott M. Kahan in Stroll Chappaqua - June 2023 Magazine
Retirement planning is more than checking off a box on your 401(k) contribution form. It’s about envisioning the life you want and setting goals to build it—knowing what you’re saving for. Like planning a trip, you need to know where you’re going, how you’ll get there, and what you’ll do once you arrive. You need a vision and a roadmap. Here’s how to do it.
START PLANNING AND SAVING EARLY
If you’re in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, you might think retirement is a long way off. You might have kids and mortgages and are not looking down the road yet. But the earlier you start planning and saving, the better. You can’t make up time. When you start investing in your 30s, it makes a big difference.
Ask yourself two key questions: When do you want to retire? And how much money in today’s dollars will you need? Define your goals quantitative and qualitatively, with dollar amounts and time frames. If you want to retire early, what does that mean? Could your field of expertise translate into part-time consulting work in retirement? How will your expenses change? Will your mortgage be paid off?
Establish a game plan. A Certified Financial Planner™ professional will help you project what you’ll need with taxes and inflation.
ENVISION YOUR LIFE IN RETIREMENT
Theoretically, if you retire at 65, you have a third of your life ahead. How do you envision that life? Do you want to travel? Do you want to sell your home or buy a second home? Talk with your spouse, partner, loved ones—the people you’ll spend this time with. Make sure your visions are aligned.
People see retirement as an end goal. But in reality, there are three stages of retirement: the early years, when you’re healthy, want to travel, and tend to spend more than you thought. The second stage is when you settle down and focus on spending time with family and grandchildren. And the third, when you’re less active and more attentive to your health.
Your goals, actions, and financial needs will change with each stage as they evolve throughout your life. If you’re young, envision the lifestyle you want, leaving room to be flexible. If you’re closer to retirement—a few years away—start planning the particulars.
PLAN FOR AND THROUGH THE TRANSITION
Retirement can be a tough transition for many people. Proper financial planning can help. Just because you’ve hit retirement doesn’t mean the planning stops.
Financially, a monthly withdrawal plan that gives you a steady income, like a regular paycheck, can help you budget and feel more secure. At the same time, you figure out when to take Social Security to maximize your benefit. Spending your savings can be emotionally challenging: you don’t want to lose what you’ve worked hard to build. Planning can help here, too, so you don’t feel like you have to cut your expenses every time the market drops.
Develop long-term emotional support systems— hobbies, relationships—to help you navigate the shift to not working. I see clients retire with big projects and goals, but many haven’t thought further than six months ahead. A two-week stay-cation to test-drive retirement can be a clarifying exercise to help you think through what you’ll do.
When you wait too long to plan for retirement, all you can do is plan what you can spend. When you start early, you can plan for what you need for the retirement you want. It’s never too early. Envision and build.