Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Five W's of Retirement Planning

Most of you recognize those five Ws from a class on journalistic writing. Or perhaps it is simply a process of decision making that you have developed on your own. Either way, retirement poses the same questions, queries that everyone needs to answer at some point.

Who - There is no pat answer to the question of who should or shouldn't retire. For some, a career choice made decades ago will simply not allow you to go beyond the traditional retirement age. Those folks have always known that they not only should retire, But that they have to. And even as debates seem to suggest that working longer is an option, I fear that these folks who simply can't seem to muster the physical willpower to go another day are being left out of the conversation.

It is more than a simple blue-collar equation, one where your physical work life has been such that your body will fight you each morning the alarm clock rings. For others, who consider themselves white-collared but doing the mundane tasks that are mentally draining, the same sense of not being able to go on another day, the answer to the question is now.

To answer the who might be easy. But to answer the other questions, not so much. If you are fortunate enough to have some kind of career that allows you a few extra years of income production, you will benefit mightily. For those who can't, a couple of expectation adjustments will be necessary.

What - Most folks don't project what retirement will look like until they are so close that the options have been culled to the point where only few choices remain. This question needs to be answered long before the "age" approaches. This might involve a cold, hard look at where you live and if staying where you are is do-able. While it seems as if we are getting ahead of our questions, what retirement will look like is unknown and only somewhat subject to plans. Yet, some conversation about what you expect is in order as you approach fifty. Once at that age and beyond, tailoring your "what" should be the focus of your equation.

When - If you have answered who and what you are, the when would seem to be easier to answer. But often it is a coordinated affair, aligning your retirement with your spouse or perhaps with a certain work goal. But retirement doesn't and shouldn't be a stop sign on a road well lived. It should be more of a yield, a merger into into another place in the journey. It might look like work to an outsider. But to you, when should mean the ability to segue nto something you have always wanted to do. If there is a paycheck involved - great. If not, just as wonderful.

Where - For some reason, this is a very stressful decision. If you live somewhere you really like for whatever reason, where is a moot point. You will be happier staying put and living your life surrounded by those people, places and things that your pre-retirement life found enriching. But if it is the other way around, spend some time, preferably before you work your last day, examining your options.

It would probably be wise to involve your family in your thought processes if only to give them time to prepare. Why? Life happens fast and sometimes things go wrong. It will be your family that will help you through this trying time and they should know as much in advance of your decision to prepare as well.

Why - This might simply be answered by a question: why not. No one can make this determination for you but you.

No comments: