What are you retiring to one day?  As you vacation this month or next and are away from work and a full calendar, think about this question.  Talk to your spouse or significant other about what’s possible, what’s on their mind?  What exactly are you both working towards when you think about retirement?

The fast pace of life includes family and personal responsibilities in addition to work.  All of this may become overwhelming if we allow it.  Taking vacation and PTO is important for rest and recovery.  Going nonstop without calling a timeout creates stress.  While away and moving at a slower pace, why not consider what your next chapter may look like?

It’s never too early to have a conversation or bounce ideas around.  Defining what you want, or what you think you want your retirement to be is important.  Even if you change your mind or adjust expectations, thinking and talking out loud before retirement arrives is valuable.  Our brains like to defer decisions, especially the big ones.  Too often we may push off planning for tomorrow in exchange for what’s happening today.  What might be possible if time was set aside to think and write down ideas on what you may retire to?

To get the most value out of defining your retirement, think about time as opposed to dollars.  Where exactly are you spending your time in the future?  Are you with family and friends?  Is your future work giving you energy or taking more away?  Are you working at all?  What are you doing with the time you have each day?

Too much continues to be written and stressed about saving and investing for retirement as a means to an end.  This is typically followed with statistics and a sad graph that shows the average pre-retiree has saved a fraction of what’s necessary.  Allowing retirement to be defined by your investments is a mistake.  There’s a better approach to take that starts with your time.

I believe you may be more prepared and less reactive when you define retirement by where you want to spend your time.  Money can be earned and replaced, working longer, if necessary, may solve cash flow needs.  Time is different and shifts focus away from investment outcomes.  Money is important and does supply some level of security and choices that should stretch decades.  Retirement shouldn’t be about how much is in your accounts, it should be about what you enjoy doing.  Happiness arrives when you are doing what you want, when you want, with whom you want.  This is all a function of time and controlling more of it.

As you journey through retirement, what do you do after you’ve had your morning coffee?  Where is most of your day spent?  There is only so much golf, biking, pickleball, or walking the dogs one may do.  What would a typical day look like for you if you could design it start to finish?  This is where one may be creative and begin taking steps to get closer to repurposing their time.

I can tell you from decades of experience that many are not quite sure what “retirement” may look like.  With so many years spent working, it’s easy to be defined by what we do or once did.  Leaving the firm or business behind can be overwhelming and create a loss of identity.  Now what?  Knowing this in advance and considering all your possibilities can make retirement less scary and more real.  When focusing on your time, you may consider taking a break, sabbatical, or a phased in retirement over several years.  Slowly reducing hours and responsibilities may allow for an easier transition then stopping one day.  This approach also allows you to fill your time with other activities that may be equally rewarding.  You may start a second career, volunteer, and take classes on an exciting topic.

Mistakes happen when you don’t know what you are retiring to.  Not everyone wants to leave the career they are in, it’s ok to continue to work if you enjoy what you do.  Work may be rewarding on many levels including the opportunity to mentor others.

It’s your future and you may make the most of it when you plan around your time.

Advisory services through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge and Flowerstone Financial are not affiliated.

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