In Part I and Part II of this series, I went over the benefits of the first two phases of the retirement planning process. I also gave examples of why the process is more important than the plan. In this final section, I’ll cover the last stage of the retirement planning process: how to build a roadmap to follow on your journey to a happy retirement.
Perhaps the most difficult stage of retirement planning (and therefore, the most ignored) is figuring out how to get to where you want to be. Studies have shown that Americans spend more time planning their 2-week vacation than their 30-year retirement. It’s no wonder with all the commercials offering plans and advice that people are confused as to where to start. Everyone’s circumstances are different and there is no ‘one-size fits all’ retirement plan. It’s during the process that you’ll discover what’s best for you.
Part of this stage is educating yourself on the many options available to meet your future obligations. This is the area that getting help from a professional can be extremely useful. Not only will a competent advisor know and understand the options, but he or she will also be able to help you determine which best fits your needs. Alternately, if you have the time and desire, you can conduct the research yourself. Knowing and understanding your options has the added benefit of being able to adjust when things change in the future (which they will). What’s best today may not be best 5 or 10 years from now.
Another integral part of this last phase is to monitor your plan and adjust as needed. The process is not one that you can complete just once and forget about. Having done the research the first time will allow you to recognize when it may be time for a strategy change. A hired professional can also provide objective, third-party observations to prevent you from getting blindsided by an unforeseen risk.
Just as each step of the process provides benefits, the overall process provides significant benefits, as well. Academic studies have shown that a plan brings structure to your actions. Planning initiates action by moving you from a deliberative mindset (weighing the pros and cons of specific actions) to an implemental mindset (devising ways to make things happen). By shifting your mindset, you have a higher chance of success at achieving your goals. By completing the planning process, your cognitive resources are freed up for other pursuits. Even though we may not be consciously thinking about the plan, our subconscious continues to work out the implementation details. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with a solution to a problem you’ve been contemplating? Planning also reduces overall stress and anxiety by eliminating uncertainty about the future.
The bottom line is that plans don’t always work…but planning does! Don’t be afraid to make the commitment to plan for your retirement. Another adage comes to mind: if you don’t plan for your retirement, someone else will. And they probably won’t have your best interests in mind.
Nick Naseman is a Retirement Income Certified Professional® and President of Iron Mountain Financial, an independent Registered Investment Advisory firm. He guides retirees and near retirees through the planning process to empower them to take control of their retirement. Nick can be reached at 719-623-7433 or Nick@Iron-Mountain-Financial.com