When you’re working full time and raising kids, it’s hard not to get caught up in the minutiae that dominates your daily life. Just getting from Monday to Friday can feel like one frantic slog through whatever’s next on the agenda: getting the kids to school, getting yourself to work, meetings, project deadlines, picking the kids up, soccer practice, dance rehearsal, homework, and a few meals squeezed in wherever they fit.
Like many of life’s most important tasks, financial planning requires a broader perspective. If we managed your assets the way that most working couples have to manage their lives – minute-by-minute – we’d be sacrificing long-term success for unreliable short-term gains. Instead, the Keen Wealth team always looks at your finances and the markets through the widest lens possible so that we can make a plan for a secure and fulfilling retirement.
I encourage my clients to try to do the same with their personal retirement planning. The nearer you are to retirement, the more important it becomes that you step back from your daily to-do list and take in the big picture of your life. A Vision Board can be a powerful way to snap that big picture into sharper focus.
How do you “see” your retirement?
You’ve probably come across various ways to craft a Vision Board in magazines and on social media. One popular method is what I’ll call an aspirational Vision Board. That’s where you post pictures or motivational quotes that relate to your personal, professional, and lifestyle goals. The idea is that by visualizing the life you want, you’ll consciously and subconsciously start putting steps in place to make that life a reality.
You might use this kind of Vision Board to “see” what your dream retirement looks like. Post pictures of that winter vacation home, sinking long putts on the green, the sports car or fishing boat you’ve always wanted, the easel and paint set you plan to set up in the kids’ old room.
There is a slight danger in this kind of visioning, however. Too often Vision Boards turn into grown-up versions of a Christmas wish list. They become too much about things we think will make us happy. And as we’ve discussed many times before, the quick hit of happiness we get when we buy new things is fleeting. Retirees who think they can buy a better retirement often end up isolated by their possessions and unfulfilled.
So, if you do make this kind of retirement Vision Board, try to keep your focus on the experiences you want to have. Don’t post a picture of a boat because you just want a new boat. See you and your spouse gliding around your favorite lake, or teaching your grandchildren how to fish. Don’t post sinking that long put. Post you and your foursome celebrating at the end of the round.
A better retirement blueprint.
I actually prefer a different approach to a retirement Vision Board.
Try this with your spouse.
Get yourself a whiteboard, chalkboard, or a big sheet of paper. Divide it into 4 sections: 3 Years from Now; 5 Years from Now; 10 Years from Now; 20 Years from Now.
In each of those sections, write down how old you will be, how old your spouse will be, how old your children will be. There is something powerful about allowing yourself to go there in your mind. For me, it provides real perspective on how valuable each day is between now and those specific ages.
Now, ask yourselves: What do we want our lives to be like at each of these points in the future? What do we want our finances to look like? Our health? Our careers? Where are we living? Where will our children be? What activities do we want to be enjoying? What roles do we want to have in our community? What places do we want to visit? How do we want to grow, both as individuals and as a couple?
I think this is a much more meaningful way to approach a Vision Board. You’re not just pinning up pictures of things to buy. You’re making a blueprint for your family’s future.
Today’s vision for tomorrow.
Of course, this Vision Board is also quite a bit more challenging to complete. It’s an exercise that takes time. You have to make this Vision Board a priority and be thoughtful about your answers if you’re going to do it right.
It’s also a Vision Board you’ll probably want to revisit. My wife and I often go through this exercise together, and I can tell you that the Vision Board we made a few years ago was different than the most recent one we completed. Your life is going to change, and you have to be ready to change your plan along with it.
But that’s one of the real advantages today’s retirees have. Your parents and grandparents probably didn’t get a chance to think about their retirement like this. Their retirements were usually shorter and often less intentional. They retired FROM work, but they didn’t really retire TO anything new.
So take advantage of this opportunity! You get to live your life to the fullest in retirement—physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially. Talk to your spouse about what’s really important to each of you. Discuss what you both want from retirement. And try to map out what that journey is going to look like each step of the way.
For more tips on crafting your retirement Vision Board, I hope you’ll check out my book, “Keen on Retirement: Engineering the Second Half of Your Life” which will be available in early September.
Or, better yet, make an appointment to visit Keen Wealth and talk to one of my fiduciary advisors. Sure, sunsets and beachfront condo pictures might make for nice wall decorations. But working with a professional on a checklist-driven plan is what’s going to get you there.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in 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 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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