Proactive Lifestyle Planning – Your Retirement and Your Well-Being Are at Stake

You can’t believe that the long-awaited day has finally arrived! The promise of this day is the only thing that has sustained you through the long work hours, impossible schedules, and never-ending office politics. Unlike most mornings, as you get dressed you are aware that you are excited about going to work today. After all, it’s the last day of work before you begin that anticipated, glorious, two-week vacation.

As you begin your daily commute to the office, you beam with pride about the decision you made in the cold short days of January. You recall setting up that special vacation savings plan in order to have enough money for your vacation. You remember how hard it has been to put money away each and every week when there were so many other demands on your paycheck. As you withdrew the money from the account at lunch time, you realized you had enough money to go almost anywhere.

In April your wife had suggested that you sit down with a travel agent or vacation planner and you dismissed the idea. You pointed out to her that with the Internet, you can do anything that a travel agent could do. Besides, travel agents couldn’t really know what your family likes or doesn’t like, so how could they possibly do a better job than you could do on your own?

However, on the way home that evening you realize that the long discussed trip to Europe was definitely out of the question for this year. Because you’ve been so busy the previous several months, no airline tickets or hotel reservations have been made. Even if something did become available at the last minute, your passport has expired and you didn’t get around to renewing it.

You’re not the least bit concerned however because there are so many things you would like to do and so many places you’d like to go. In fact, you realize that multiple opportunities have been the major problem in all of your discussions with your wife. You rationalize to yourself that it shouldn’t be too big of a deal to shorten the list and create a truly memorable vacation.

After you get home that evening, you and your wife decide to set aside the entire Saturday morning to plan how you will spend your vacation. However, after several telephone calls the next morning, you realize that the beach vacation you fantasized about all year is not a possibility. All the good places have been booked for months and the only thing you could find was an older rundown property four blocks from the beach.

The trip to Northern California wine country is also off your radar because the last-minute airline tickets are exorbitant. Even the drive vacations begin to look problematic because the car needs new tires and the brakes feel a little spongy. Because of these concerns, you just don’t feel comfortable taking the car on several thousand mile trip.

Is this a ridiculous scenario for how to plan a much-anticipated vacation? Of course it is! Would you or anybody you know wait until the first day of their vacation to decide what they’re going to do? Not likely! Most couples would never procrastinate and avoid the obvious questions about how they would like to spend the precious two weeks of their annual vacation.

The terrible irony is that many people will spend much more time planning a two-week vacation with their family than they will spend planning their 25-30 year retirement. Many people will argue with this contention by pointing out that they have been contributing to their 401(k) plan for many years. They feel like they have planned very responsibly for their retirement.

However, having a fully funded 401(k) retirement package is no better a guarantee of a successful retirement than a vacation savings plan is a guarantee of a successful vacation. Money is a small (but certainly important) part of a successful retirement. However, it turns out that the lifestyle aspects of retirement planning are much more important to the success of a retirement than money is.

The Reality Over the last several months, many of us have been astonished at the unprecedented losses in the stock market, the uncertainty of the real estate market, and the extremely shaky economy. This situation has caused a lot of stress to the many baby boomers who had planned on retiring sooner rather than later. Seventy-eight million boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 and 12,000 from that group retire every day, although this number will decrease somewhat because of the economic situation. Are you thinking that the solution to this economic downturn is to postpone your retirement for another five to ten years? Please reconsider this decision.

The assumption that you need to totally postpone your plans is based on a faulty premise that retirement is primarily financially based. If you had enough money, you could have a successful retirement. Without realizing it, this could add even more stress to your lives. There is already concern about what these next 20 to 30 years will look like. A successful retirement is not only about financial security but about how you will plan the lifestyle you desire for this next stage of your life.

The Value of a Plan I have often referred to the old saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Do you know anyone who really wants to fail? Planning for this stage is a good way for you to de-stress and ensure a positive life transition.

You have made many decisions along life’s way. If the decisions you made turned out to be good, you felt satisfied and happy about them and considered yourself to be fortunate. If they were poor decisions, you may have been disappointed and felt remorse, wishing that you had thought them through more carefully. At this stage in your life, you deserve to take the time to begin to explore all of the aspects of this transition.

One of the ways to plan for retirement is to use the Life Arenas model. It divides up the decisions to be made into six life arenas which allow you to look at your whole life in parts. The Life Arenas provide a way for you to begin to think about this life transition in segments with a number of questions to be answered by you. It also provides you with a format for a dialogue with your partner so that both of you have input into the many decisions that must be made to create the best retirement for you. You will begin to feel more at ease with this transition and confident about its outcome.

The Six Life Arenas The six Life Arenas are areas where we live every day of our lives. We have careers and work that we go to. We are exercising and taking care of our health on a regular basis. We are handling financial matters and planning for our financial security. Every day we interact with friends, colleagues and family members. Hopefully there are leisure activities, hobbies and social events that we enjoy. And last but not least, we are striving to be the best that we can be by discovering new talents, gifts and giving back to the community. These Life Arenas do not go away when we retire. In some ways they become even more important.

Consider answering the questions within the following arenas to help you begin to plan for your retirement.

Career and Work–Will retirement mean you will continue to work part-time or full-time with a more relaxed schedule? Will you start your own business? Will you volunteer? What will your day look like?

Health and Wellness–How well have you maintained your health practices? What changes can you make to make up for past mistakes and omissions? Do you have a chronic illness that could benefit from more attention?

Finances and Insurance–Have you planned well financially so that you can afford the lifestyle you desire on the money you have set aside for retirement? What does money mean to you in your life and as a couple?

Family and Relationships–How will you maintain relationships with friends after you have retired?

Leisure and Social–Do you have enough interests in your current life to follow you into your retirement? Will you be able to maintain social engagements if you are not at work? How strong are your friendships?

Personal Development–Are you open to learning new things? Will you volunteer for a cause that you truly believe in? How will you find purpose and meaning in your life?

The Well-being and Retirement Planning Connection Whether it is your dream vacation or your retirement, proactive planning is required. Planning in all Life Arenas significantly increases the likelihood of a positive outcome for your retirement. Take action now by addressing the sociological aspects of retirement. Decrease the stress and disappointment caused by not having a plan. You can look forward to a positive life transition in retirement if you have planned well and experience readiness in all of the Life Arenas mentioned above.