You may have spent the last 30 years (or more) working tirelessly and are now beginning to realize that retirement is staring you right in the face. All those years of saving, putting your kids through college, and delaying traveling with your spouse are now over (oh wait – maybe that’s just me and my spouse? Please don’t tell her). It’s now time when these goals, whatever they may be, start to become a reality. But before you enter that next phase of life, have a plan in place to ensure your retirement has the fairy tale ending you desire. However, the process of orchestrating a desirable retirement comes with both “Beauty” and “Beast.”

Just like you, I read articles on CNBC, Forbes, and Wall Street Journal that alluded to the proverbial “Checklist for 2020 Retirees” or “Do’s and Don’ts for 2020 Retirees.” While the information in these articles was informative and helpful, they failed to address the single most important part of retirement: your retirement should not be treated as a checklist.

Too often I hear clients say, “I signed up for Medicare; check that off my list of things to do,” or “I rolled over my 401(k) to an IRA; check it off the list.” To which my response is, “That’s great! You needed to do all those things, but have you thought about how all of this is interconnected? Were you aware that increasing your IRA withdrawals to take a vacation or pay for a home renovation could unintentionally lead to higher Medicare premiums? Were you aware the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 changed how you receive credit for the money you give to your church or other charity?” Or more simply put, “Have you ever thought of your retirement plan as more than just a checklist?” The answer I receive is almost always, “Well, not really.”

Insert “Beauty” and “Beast.” Two words referring to the fairy tale novel written in 1740 and now championed as one of Disney’s classic films. The “Beast” is what many soon-to-be retirees fail to conquer – that is, preparing and thinking about how you envision the next chapter of your life evolving. You may not realize this, but you will spend almost as much time, if not more, in retirement than you did working. So, it is a healthy exercise to think about how you are going to fill 40 hours per week with something new, and maybe more enjoyable.

A visioning exercise can help determine where you want to take the next phase of your life. Do you want to travel? Do you want to engage in community activities? Do you want to spend more time with kids or grandkids? What can you afford to do? What can you not afford to do? Is it possible you can do everything you imagined? These are all questions that are personal in nature, yet most of them tie back to your overall plan. One of the hardest exercises for people to do is to tie their personal goals with their financial goals. This is the so-called “Beast” to your retirement.

And now, “Beauty.” This is where you realize the fruits of all your labor. This is where you orchestrate and develop a financial plan that moves in lock step with your personal goals. At this point you are accomplishing everything you dreamed of doing yet are not sacrificing yourself financially. This is what I have found most people want when heading into retirement. They want to know that everything will be okay, and they want to know they have a plan in place.

Retirement in 2020

So, what’s the takeaway? Don’t just think of your retirement as a checklist, and don’t be afraid of the proverbial “Beast.” Think about how you can interconnect your goals of travel, giving to charity, giving to family, etc. with your financial goals and resources. Once you do that, you will see the real “Beauty” retirement has to offer.

Author Jeffrey R. Lewis Financial Advisor

Jeff has been involved in the financial services industry since 2015. He earned a bachelor of science degree in economics from Illinois State University, graduating with cum laude honors.

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