Seven questions about retirement

What comes to mind when you think of your retirement? Is it excitement? Uncertainty? Dread? Perhaps all three?

The best retirements are planned. Here are the key questions you should ask yourself when considering your retirement.


1. When will you retire?
Most of us have the freedom to decide when we retire unless there are family or health issues. You could begin thinking about the ideal time by asking what you think has to happen before you retire.

That will often be linked to money, but retirement is much more than the financial aspect.

Besides, if money is an issue and you want to retire, you may still be able to semi-retire by working fewer hours or days each week. Full retirement may not be the only option.

2. What will you do?
You could have 8000 days (about 22 years) – perhaps more – in retirement. What will you do with this time?

To answer that question, you could work through these: What are your passions? Your interests? Your priorities? How will they be a part of your life in retirement?

Retirement is meant to be more relaxed than your working life, but it isn’t meant to be sit-on-the-couch nothing. That’s boring. Mostly, we boomers don’t do boring well.

3. What income will you need?
There’s so much focus on the money question that you’d almost think there’d be a formula to work it out. The problem is that no two retirements are the same. There can’t be a set formula.

Unless you’re someone who understands the financial side of retirement, it’s best to get professional help. Finding a good financial planner will help you understand what income you’ll need for your lifestyle.

In choosing one, make sure you and your planner are both on the same page – that you’re both working in the same direction. That’s important.

In Australia, the government offers a free Financial Advice Service that you may find helpful before going elsewhere.

Keep in mind that what you’re planning to do will have an impact on costs. If you’re planning an overseas trip every year, you’ll need a bigger bucket of money than if you plan to lock yourself away while you write a bestseller.

Big tip: Owning your home before retiring is a huge financial help.

4. Who will be a part of your life?
If you’re part of a couple, you’ll have more time together in retirement. Discussion is needed before you get there.

Conversations could begin with, ‘In retirement I would like to …’ Or, ‘When we retire, what would you think of …?’ Or, ‘I’m looking forward to us being retired together because …’

But you need more than each other.

People need people at any time of life, and particularly in retirement when you can become hermit-like if you want. That’s unhealthy. Nancy K Schlossberg in Revitalizing Retirement says that your social connections in retirement – ‘your social capital’ – ‘will result in feelings of wellbeing’.

Her advice: ‘Reframe retirement as an opportunity to make new contacts, seize the opportunity of having more time to reconnect with family and friends, and brainstorm ways to live your life so that you have plenty of social capital in the bank.’

5. Where will you live?
Most retirees stay where they currently live. And, why not? It’s easy. It’s familiar. And, in all probability, they’ll have friends in the area.

If you’re thinking of relocating or downsizing, do your homework.

If you’re shifting out of the city for a cheaper country home, make sure the area has the services you may need (medical care, for instance). With the pace of inflation in the city, you may not be able to afford city house prices if you want to return.

Then, if you’re thinking of shifting to a favourite holiday spot, test drive it first. Live there for at least three months—in the off season—before making the final decision. (Check out Charles’s experience.)

6. How will you find purpose?
Life should be lived with purpose. Retirement will be more relaxed, but life is best lived on purpose.

Mark Zuckerberg, in his Commencement address at Harvard University, said: ‘Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness’.

That’s the big picture.

Arianne Levine, in Psychology Today, writes about the importance of purpose.  ‘Living purposefully means combining what makes you happy, what you naturally excel at, and things you can get lost in for hours to fulfil a larger goal than personal pleasure’.

That’s the practical, how-to-do-it picture. Purpose is about living a meaningful life that comes from knowing who you are, your ideals and your passions.

7. What will be your legacy?

How will you be remembered at your funeral? That’s where your legacy will be mentioned.

Most of us won’t leave behind huge buildings with our name on them; grants for research; or a body of work that scholars will pour over for the next century.

But we all impact on people we know, particularly family—for good or not. This is where we can choose to leave a huge legacy for good. Retirement allows you the time and opportunity to build a worthwhile legacy.

You will create your own retirement. The best retirements really do take thought and planning. These questions could be a good start.

Bruce Manners is the author of Retirement Ready? and Refusing to Retire. He is also the founder of

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Related articles:
How to choose a financial adviser
Nine essentials of retirement
The sweet spot and super failings

Written by Bruce Manners

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