Do You Have a SMART Retirement Plan?

By Robin Trimingham

You have heard it time and again: save, save, save for retirement.

But what about all the other aspects of your life?

The fact is, planning for your day-to-day life in retirement requires a lot more thought than most people think.

Oddly enough, the more career-focused you have been during your working years, the more likely it is that you will benefit from making a plan to navigate the transition from the corporate world to the world beyond work when you finally do retire.

According to a study conducted by the Ontario Securities Commission in Canada, the primary challenges people experience in moving from the intention to create a retirement plan, to actually having a plan, are that “it’s easy to put off, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and drop out, and it’s hard for me to get the right advice”.

If you are a busy person and not necessarily looking forward to being retired, it can be very tempting to avoid thinking about the future, telling yourself that you will have lots of time to figure things out when you do retire.

The problem is retirement is not a one-time event. It is an “evolutionary process” and the more you try to avoid thinking about it, the more likely you are to feel disoriented and dissatisfied when you do retire.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way.

Many people in the corporate world will be quite familiar with using SMART goals to plan business projects, so why not create SMART goals for each aspect of the first year of your retirement?

For those who are not familiar with this term, a SMART goal is one that is: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.

You can set up some simple life transition goals by applying each of these five principles as you work out answers to the following questions (and any others that are applicable to your life circumstances):

• When do I want to retire?

• Where will I live?

• What will I do each day?

• What new thing will I learn?

• How will I give back?

As you tackle each of the questions, consider your current level of awareness of the situation: what things do you know and what things will you need to find out or verify?

Then ask yourself what it is that you want (include the desires of your spouse or life partner as appropriate).

Next, consider your actual ability to achieve what you want. Will you need to do any research or acquire any form of training to make this happen?

If you want to buy a sailboat, for example, sailing lessons or a course on navigation might be in order.

Then find a way to objectively assess your ability to carry out your plan.

It might be nice to dream of travelling around the world when you retire, but you will be challenged to make this happen if you don’t have any surplus income in your retirement budget.

Finally, when in doubt, as they say, refer to step one: retirement is not a onetime event. Get into the habit of assessing and revising your goals as your life progresses.

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