If you hope to get it just right, it is never too early to start planning for your retirement. After all the saving it took to get here, you don't want to overlook how you will actually spend your time in retirement. It is easier to deal with issues before you become a full-time retiree. That way if you discover any potential challenges to the retirement lifestyle you envision, you still have time to fix them.
On my website, I offer a free e-book called "Navigating the Retirement Jungle". Often readers requesting a copy include a brief comment about where they are in regard to their own retirement. Typically they are at least in their fifties, in varying degrees of preparedness, and are beginning to think about their second act. If I have noticed any trend over the years it is how few people have done any in-depth planning for the retirement life they hope to live. A standard request will say something like, "I am a few years away from retiring and want to start planning," or "I have just retired and can use your help navigating my retirement course." It seems many people are hoping for the best and optimistically awaiting a future into which they have no real insight. And thoughts of planning, if any, are just now coming to their attention as they inch closer to retirement age.
How much time should we put into planning and preparing for the 20 or more years after we leave the workforce? And when should that planning begin?
When contemplating the right time to begin financial preparations for retirement, it is safe to say the sooner the better. It may be hard for a 25 year old to imagine the distant future when they will retire from the working world. They are caught up in living life now, and 65 seems very far away. But if they begin to foster the behaviors that will pay off in the long run, they can hope to find themselves ahead of the game. For example, setting aside 10 percent of earnings each month is a good habit to get into. Hopefully, if you do not see the money, you will not miss it. And that 10 percent saved consistently over the next 30 or 40 years has the opportunity to grow significantly. Regardless of what percentage you decide to save, the important thing is getting into the mindset of saving for the future as early as possible.
Along with saving and investing for retirement, it is equally important to plan for the non-financial aspects of retirement. While a 25 year old might have a difficult time imagining what life will look like at 65, those of us further along should certainly brainstorm some ideas. Imagine yourself freed from the daily struggle of making ends meet with time on your hands to do whatever you want. There will be no more deadlines, stressful meetings or workplace negotiations. When you envision yourself in retirement, what do you picture yourself doing?
Imagine how wonderful it could be to enter a retirement life where you know what you want to do and are excited about getting to it. Picture a life where not only can you choose to relax and do nothing, but where you also have an endless list of interesting things to do. With the right preparation you can hope for a life that is both engaging and relaxed, with more than enough hours in the day to get it all done. You are finally able to reward yourself with a quality lifestyle that you have earned and deserve. If you have taken time to visualize the years ahead and figure out how you can make the best use of the days and months at your disposal, you can hope to gracefully transition into retirement.
On the other hand, if you just happen into retirement, you are leaving your future to chance. You may luck out and experience a wonderful second act. But do you really want to risk just going with the flow rather than taking control of your own course? If you make the effort to plan for your newfound freedom, you will enjoy a much smoother transition into retirement. Do what you can now so you are ready to make the most of the years ahead.
Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.
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