What Makes A Successful Retirement?

People want a successful retirement. In fact, I think most people would agree that’s what we all want. It doesn’t happen by accident though, does it? It can be determined by how we define success. Let’s give an example. Say you have somebody who retires at age 60 and two years later they’re enjoying things, but they pass away in a car accident. Would you consider this a successful retirement? You could say, “Their retirement was a success because they didn’t run out of money,” but it really depends on how we evaluate success. They only had two years to really experience retirement, so they didn’t get to experience the 20 or 30 years they may have planned on. The number one fear of all people is running out of money before they run out of life. If you only make it two years into retirement, unless you had some really big gambling problems or lifestyle goals, you probably didn’t run out of money. We’ve got to understand that the success you are looking for is going to be different than anybody else’s because every retiree is different.


Success Takes Time

Everybody’s going to have different wants, desires, and needs. The definition of what is successful is trying to accomplish as many of those things as possible, but success just doesn’t fall out of the sky. Nobody sees how much time it takes to be successful. For example, fifteen year old Tiger Woods didn’t just wander out onto a golf course one day and swing a golf club perfectly. It took years of practice. He’s got some natural abilities for the sport, but he’s been doing this ever since he could walk. He’s been putting time and practice in, and nobody sees that. They just see the success that comes from all those years of work, but they don’t see the years of work in the time invested. With this in mind, we realize that number one: If we want to have success, we have to define what that is. Number two: If we want that defined success, we have to build a plan to accomplish it. It’s not going to happen otherwise. There are many ways to invest your money and a lot of different opinions out there. Just because you got there, it doesn’t mean that you have a plan for retirement.


Making An Apple Pie

Let’s say I am going to make an apple pie and I go to the grocery store with a list of ingredients, all the things that are in an apple pie. I come back home and I put the ingredients on the kitchen counter. Do I have an apple pie? I have all the stuff that makes an apple pie, but I don’t have one yet because I’ve not put it together. The problem is a lot of people get to retirement and say, “I’ve got all this stuff. Surely I’ve got a retirement plan.” Well, you have as much of a retirement plan as the ingredients in those bags are making up an apple pie. You don’t have a clear idea for how all these things fit together. They may not fit together at all. You’ve got to sit down and really look at the goals you have and then see what’s relevant and what’s not. You may want an apple pie, but in actuality you may just have a perfect ingredient list for brownies. You might say, “Okay. Well, some things are relevant.” Butter, sugar, eggs, all those things that go into the sweets that we love, but you don’t really need the chocolate. It’s not going to help you get the apple pie you want. You’ve got to take some things out and replace others. The first step is to flesh out those ideas, goals, and just things that you could be filling your day with and discover what you hope to accomplish.


Discover Your End Goal

A big part of the discussion is figuring out your goals in retirement. Ask yourself questions like, “Do I want to travel? Do I want to do this? Do I want to support causes?” and kind of build out a list of things that define your idea of success. What are the things that are important to you? What things do you want to take priority when you have time to make them a priority? Based on that list of goals, you can see what needs to happen. It becomes very clear when you develop and discover your end goal.


Adapted from John Vandergriff’s radio show Plan For Everything by Neil Ervin

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