‘I’m a Certified Financial Planner, and This Is the Most Important Non-Financial Factor To Consider When Planning for Retirement’

Photo: Getty Images/Jessie Casson
While it's never too early to start planning for retirement (seriously, consider starting now), a common misconception is that doing so basically just means squirreling away as much money as possible. Of course, financial savings are a crucial component of a healthy retirement plan, but it actually shouldn't be the sole focus. In fact, according to a retirement-planning pro, there's a non-financial factor of retirement planning that's key to consider: how you see yourself living once you no longer work, aka your retirement vision.

Financial planner Anthony Delauney, CFP, author of The No-Regrets Retirement Roadmap, says one's retirement vision is what “impacts emotions in retirement.” It includes activities a retiree may want to continue to do (or stop doing) as well as new-to-them things they may not have had as much time to do in their pre-retirement years, says Delauney.And while the items on one's retirement vision may not be directly financial, they do have financial implications (which is why Delauncey is so keen on urging folks to create one for themselves). That is, by identifying what (and whom) a person values in life, he says, they'll have a better sense of how to plan their retirement—which will call into question how they set up their financial plans.

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For example, shifting from homebody to globetrotter upon retiring will indeed require financial foresight to make that jet-setting lifestyle possible. But before making any moves, it’s key to first consider whether that's even something someone wants for themselves. That's why setting a retirement vision is the top non-financial component of planning for the same, says Delauney.

"Think of the things that give you consistent joy in your life.” —Anthony Delauney, financial planner

So, where do you start regarding outlining your retirement vision? “It's really important for individuals to step back and think of the things that give them consistent joy in their lives,” Delauney says. Those joy-producing people, places, and activities are what you should be focusing on when taking a non-financial approach to retirement planning.

In their working years, many people may have a structure that they stick to. They may wake up and fall asleep around the same time, start working at a certain hour, and may even have such an overwhelming to-do list that they don't have much free time. While Delauney recommends retaining at least some structure into retirement life (whether that looks like volunteering, hobby groups, or even a part-time job), the way in which an individual organizes it is ultimately up to them and their vision.

For the sake of an example, consider three distinct retirement visions: 1. wanting to mostly stay home, spend time with family, and travel every now and again; 2. wanting to sell your current home, purchase a retirement home, and live there while volunteering at a local shelter; 3. wanting to spend each season in a different country for as many successive years as possible.

Each of those three scenarios carries its own unique financial implications. And that very reality highlights the benefit of identifying a retirement vision earlier on in life, says Delauney. When you know how you want retirement to look, you can put a dollar amount to how much it would take to bring your retirement vision to life.

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