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Are There Things You Can Do Now to Make for a Better Retirement Later?

posted by Nathalie Martin

An  article in this morning’s Wall Street Journal money insert, Ready to Retire? Here is a Five Year Retirement Plan, made me high-tail it to the gym. Thinking about retirement is both scary and fun, and we'va all seen plenty of mistakes made on the way to retirement. Sure, people have failed to save enough, but most of the mistakes I am talking about have nothing to do with money. People just don’t think through how they’ll spend their time in retirement and then they age overnight when they find they have nothing meaningful with which to define themselves, and even nothing to think about when they get up in the morning. This article gives readers hands-on how-to steps for planning retirement, with one part about the money and one part about the rest, for each of the five years prior to retirement.

Calculating the nest egg is part of the equation, and the piece talks about that, but that isn’t what caught my eye. Rather, it was the tips in the article about picturing the activities we’ll spend our time doing in retirement and then planning for those. To get started, the author suggests hiring a life coach, but I can’t see why you couldn’t just hang up some poster-sized post-its and doodle about what you love. When retirement is still five years out, you do this type of broad-based planning. In year four, you are encouraged to do some research about relocations and volunteer opportunities. In year three, you can visit communities and take classes and workshops on your new avocation, and in year two, you can redo the math and think about working for money part time, in addition to doing other things. Finally, during the year just before retirement, if you are starting a business you do a detailed business plan. If you are volunteering, you nail down the terms. The financial tips in the article touch on things like long-term care insurance, health costs, when to take social security benefits, and when to roll over or transfer money into an IRA from a 401K. Very helpful, but not as helpful as imagining how we’ll spend our days and what we’ll need to do to prepare for all that fun. Try it, you might surprise yourself.  I suddenly realized that if I am really going to do the things I picture myself doing, I need to spend more time at the gym or on the yoga mat, and ironically, less time trying to make money.


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