Retirement will close an important chapter in the story of your life. But it also opens a brand-new chapter where you might be able to write stories that you've been dreaming about for decades and others that you've never imagined.
Let's talk about how the power of personal storytelling, combined with the support of a comprehensive financial plan, can shape retirement into your vision of happy ever after.
Rough Draft: Visioning
The stories we tell about ourselves give our lives meaning and purpose. As you prepare to fill in that blank page on your first day of retirement, it's important to reflect on major milestones, values, experiences, and passions that have defined your life so far. Reflecting on these past stories can help you identify what truly matters to you.
In retirement, you'll be able to use these things to create the next chapter of your story -- and you won't have 40-plus hours of work interrupting the narrative flow every week!
To get started, find any medium that's comfortable and convenient for you to express what you're thinking and feeling. You might buy a notebook to start a pre-retirement journal. You could use your phone's notes app or voice recorder. In my book, Keen on Retirement: Engineering the Second Half of Your Life, I talk about how my wife and I regularly revisit a Vision Board where we've sketched out what we want our life to be like 3, 5, 10, and 20 years into the future.
Once you've found a creative space that works, start brainstorming about the retirement chapter of your life. Don't worry if what you’re writing is “good" or "bad." Just get those thoughts, feelings, memories, and dreams out there.
You could start writing a retirement story with a few sentences or even a few loosely associated words that are important to you, like Grandkids, Crafting, Long Bike Rides, Paris, or maybe Giving Back.
Continue the story of your weekend golf buddies, and maybe add a few rounds at some bucket list courses to the narrative.
Imagine new adventures for you and your spouse: the trips you want to take, the activities you want to try, the beachside condo or gated community you'd like to settle into.
Devote a new chapter to putting your values into action as a volunteer, tutor, mentor, or full-time philanthropist.
It might also be helpful to recall some retirement stories that never found their happy endings. Were your parents "die with their boots on" types who couldn't imagine a chapter of their lives without work? Are there other characters in your own story -- friends, relatives, coworkers, neighbors -- who seem sad and aimless since they've retired? What have those stories taught you about what you want retirement to be like?
First Draft: An Ideal Day in Retirement
Great stories often begin with something very small. As your retirement story starts coming into focus, try to imagine what your ideal day in retirement would be like. If it's helpful, divide a piece of paper into three sections: Morning, Afternoon, and Evening. Fill in the blanks with things you enjoy from your current routine, like your morning cup of coffee or your favorite lunch spot.
Then, draw from the list of words, values, goals, or activities you've been freewriting about in your rough draft to add more fun, exploration, or opportunities for growth to the rest of your day.
See that blank spot where you used to fight traffic to the office? That could be the perfect spot for a new chapter about how walking every morning led to getting into the best shape of your life.
You'll definitely have to do something about all that white space in the afternoon where meetings with clients and filing paperwork used to be. Do you finally have time to coach your grandson's baseball team? Or is this where you'll start telling the story of the part-time consultancy firm you founded so you can stay connected to the engineering profession and share your experience with the next generation?
Hey, why not two days of coaching and three days of work? If you're enjoying this exercise and feeling inspired, add a few columns to your sheet for each day of the week and start writing the story of your ideal week!
Second Draft: Sharing with Collaborators
Your retirement vision is one of those stories that's only going to get better the more you tell it and retell it.
Once you're feeling good about the rough draft, share your retirement story with your friends and family. These are the people who know you best, so be open to their feedback.
Maybe you've set a goal that's a little too unrealistic, and your spouse will help you bring it down to a daily, actionable size. Maybe a retired friend will notice some potholes you've overlooked that could make your retirement transition bumpier than it needs to be.
And if you're nervous about a major goal you really want to achieve, your loved ones could also become major supporting characters whose encouragement and accountability carry you over the finish line.
Third Draft: Rewriting
In my experience, very few retirements ever arrive at a final draft. The most successful retirees I've worked with are consistently rewriting their stories as their lives change. Some of these chapters are full of surprises, joy, and discovery. And some are full of challenges and sadness.
Keen Wealth's comprehensive planning process can help you realize the story points you've mapped out years in advance, as well as navigate the plot twists you don't see coming. Once you've had a chance to write and revise the first couple of drafts of your retirement story, we'd love for you to visit our new office and share that story with us.
Bill Keen is a financial advisor with nearly 30 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he focuses on providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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