For most people, retirement is an abstract concept and planning for it can be intimidating. Many people may not know where to begin, and figuring out all of the moving pieces can be overwhelming. However, the best thing you can do to ensure you can enjoy retirement is to start planning, and the earlier the better. To make the planning process a bit less daunting, here are five tips for how to plan for your best retirement.
1. Adopt a marathon mentality.
Approaching a marathon requires a very different strategy than running a sprint. The sprint demands you give it all you’ve got from the second the horn sounds. For a marathon, you need to keep momentum for a longer period, consider the ups and downs the course may take, and plan your pace accordingly.
Saving for retirement is a marathon. When you’re first beginning to save, you may feel the impulse to “sprint,” and contribute more than you can handle, but it’s not necessary. Just getting started and contributing something is the most important thing you can do. There will be hills, valleys, hard times, and times when you lose focus, but sticking with it, keeping that momentum, is crucial.
2. Paint a clear picture.
Many assume retirement means having the time to perfect their golf swing or help out with the grandkids but don’t have a long-term plan. However, with increasing longevity, retirement can last more than twenty years, and without a plan for how you’d like to spend those years, retirement can turn into an unsatisfying, repetitive Groundhog’s Day.
Before you enter retirement, take the time to create that picture of what you would like those years of your life to look like. For example, in your perfect world, does your retirement include a beach view? Do you plan on continuing to work or spend more time volunteering? Bringing your retirement out of the abstract and figuring out that internal motivation to save is key, and can also give you a baseline for how much you may need for your dream retirement.
To avoid make sure you’re making the best plan for your retirement, test out some of these aspirational activities before you bank your whole retirement on them. Try traveling while you’re still working and before you’ve booked that around-the-world ticket, or try taking a class or two before you commit to going back to school. Researching and educating yourself is important, but nothing beats diving in and seeing what actually works for you and your family.
4. It takes a village.
We’ve all heard the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.” However, it is equally true that it also takes a village to have a successful retirement. Beyond just the many investment and saving options, navigating the social, housing, and health aspects of retirement can be daunting as well, and no one should be expected to be able to go it alone.
Build a team of experts around you. Begin with a financial advisor you trust and ask him/her to can connect you to other resources. You may need experts ranging from tax and legal advisors, to housing specialists, and other professionals to guide you through all the challenges you may face during retirement. Having these resources at your disposal can bring a peace of mind that you don’t need to figure everything out on your own.
5. Pass it on.
How to best prepare for retirement is confusing to many people, so it’s important to remember that you’re not the only one who may be a bit lost. Chances are that your friend and family have all the same questions and concerns that you have.
As you begin your journey to save, pass on the knowledge of how you got started to your loved ones who you think may be struggling. That may mean providing direction and connecting your friends to your new resources, or it could be simply educating your kids on what you’ve started doing to save and plan so they won’t feel as lost when they begin planning themselves. Passing on the knowledge you’ve acquired is a great way to give back and help others who will soon face their own retirement.
Getting a grasp on something as intangible as retirement can leave many feeling stuck and overwhelmed, but taking that leap to begin saving now will be something you certainly thank yourself for later.
Michael Lynch is a registered representative of Hartford Funds Distributors, LLC.