In October of 2018, I had the opportunity to attend the annual BAM National Conference, a gathering of like-minded professionals who ascribe to the ethical, evidence-based values of the BAM advisor community. One speaker’s talk about everything beyond money in retirement planning was especially eye-opening.
Alan Spector is now retired himself, from his position as Director of Worldwide Quality Assurance for the Procter & Gamble Company. He has also done a lot of consulting on management and quality assurance and has written four books. In his experience, people often ask, “Can I afford to retire?” and stop there.
But there is so much more to consider.
His talk, “Financial Planning: Beyond the Numbers,” shifted the focus of the conversation to what retirement will actually look like. While financial security is often the first concern, it is also important to consider what you need to do to ensure your retirement is fulfilling.
For example, if you have a passion for experiencing the world through travel, you will want your financial plan to make it possible to do it in retirement. You assume that it will be a fulfilling experience. The trouble with assuming is that acting on passion in practice is often different from what we envision.
It may turn out that travel actually takes you away from what you are more passionate about in practice. Once you start globetrotting, you may realize there are social organizations close to home you miss being more engaged in. Or there are charitable causes in which you long to take a leadership role.
What Spector recommends is a concept he calls “practicing” retirement. It’s a way of testing out your retirement plan, and it should start about five years before you take the plunge.
Using the travel example, one suggestion is to start a vacation-of-the-month club. Plan something you can fit into your schedule each month. Even regular day-trips or overnights at a B&B can help you get a sense of how fulfilling this direction you want to take your life will be. You can build from there.
This idea works for many retirement plans. Let’s say you want to start a business in retirement; you might want to engage in serious research first to hit the ground running. That way, you can begin working in the business sooner upon retiring, rather than on building it.
Or let’s say you want to teach; you might want to ask a local community college if you can speak to a class and share your experiences. This is a good way to get a feel for teaching before building the next phase of your life around that plan.
Practicing retirement will help you discover potential practical problems as well. Pursuing your passion to the degree you wanted to might make it too difficult to care for your aging parents, for example. Or you may discover health limitations of your own. A more realistic plan is clearer. It’s more likely to be fulfilling if it works.
Spector and co-author Keith Lawrence spent a decade doing research for their book, Your Retirement Quest: 10 Secrets for Creating and Living a Fulfilling Retirement. They say advisors consistently tell them they can help their clients develop a better financial plan when clients have a clear picture of what they want to do in retirement.
I can tell you from personal experience just how true that is.
As a financial lifeguard, I am always focused on the financial aspect of my clients’ retirement … but Spector’s talk reminded me that retirement planning is always about more than money. My goal has never been just to stuff as much money into the coffers as possible. That alone would be meaningless.
My goal is to help my clients have a wonderful, fulfilling retirement. That means helping them – helping you – take steps to develop the self-knowledge that will ensure your activities in this phase of life match your greatest passions.
We’re all on a journey to learn more about our own passions and find ever more meaning in life. Part of my journey requires helping you do just that. So, consider this an invitation.
Let’s help each other.
Please consider Lifeguard Wealth both a resource for financial knowledge and a source of personalized, fiduciary aid that goes beyond money. By guarding the personal fulfillment your wealth can afford you, we are fulfilled. Your passion is ours.
To our current clients, thank you for the privilege of serving you. To everyone considering Lifeguard Wealth, we look forward to starting the conversation about retirement fulfillment planning.