By Jane Honeck
It's easy to feel like a deer in the headlights when talk of retirement comes up. "How did I get here so fast?" "Am I really ready for this next phase?" "And, what does really ready mean anyway?"
Jane Honeck, Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
We've watched the TV ads portraying the golden years ahead of us. We either fall into a blissful trance imagining a carefree life or we sink into a dungeon of despair worrying about what we should have done years ago.
No matter which camp you fall into, here are five fresh ideas for getting ready for those free-wheeling years ahead.
1. Listen first.
I was surprised recently when I heard my husband say he would be out of his business and into hunting and fishing within 4 years. How did I miss that? We had lots of conversations about the next 5, 10 years but obviously, I was listening with my dream firmly in mind while he did the same. Neither of us realized the other's suggestions were meant as real intentions.
Don't fall into the same trap. Now is the time to listen and ask questions. Whether it's with your significant other or friends, find time to really listen to yourself and others so you have a deep understanding of intentions and potential timelines. You can still keep things flexible along the way, but active listening and questioning will help you all reach full understanding. Because once you recognize those clear intentions you'll know in which direction you're moving.
2. Diminish Debt.
Nothing cramps retirement intentions like debt. It's tough enough to give up income, but if you're saddled with debt, paralysis quickly sets in.
Work with a potential timeline to back into what kind of debt repayment plan you'll need to enter those golden years with as few chains as possible. You may have to tighten up your spending for a few years, but it will be worth it when you instead of your creditors, have full control over where to spend your money.
3. Right Size Your Home.
Although the biggest chunk of our income usually goes towards our mortgage, right sizing your home means so much more. Sure, a smaller mortgage (or none at all) will expand your financial freedom but there are other considerations at work.
Does the efficiency of your home keep operating and repair costs down? Is the amount of space reasonable or are you stuck in memories of days gone by filled with younger generations? Are there new and creative ways to share your home to help with costs, efficiency and community? The answers to these questions all need to be considered as part of your overall vision.
4. Empower Your Spending Plan.
Your intentions are a result of your vision for the years ahead and this vision will empower your spending plan. Make your spending plan (budget) even more empowered by creating a vision board with tangible, real-life images of that vision.
Your choices will become clearer because you will know why you are making them. This easy and fun tool will make it easy to say yes to saving or paying down debt while saying no to dining out or traveling.
5. Talk, Talk and Talk Again.
Visions, intentions and actions change with life. It's important that you keep them fresh by talking. Money isn't something we easily talk about and this is how we get into trouble.
Without open conversations about the reality and/or practicality of our money thinking, we let the voices in our head steer us into troubled waters or float us up into unrealistic cotton-candy clouds. Honest talk will keep you grounded in reality and focused on the ultimate goal.
Heading into retirement doesn't have to be filled with worry, pitfalls or unknowns. These five simple steps will help you move into the next stage of your life; a stage that can be filled with new opportunities and new freedom.
These straightforward steps can change your life by helping you set your compass for cruising into retirement. By following them, you'll find yourself in a freer life knowing exactly how and why you got there.