Preparing for Your Post-Work Voyage

Retirement should be like one long vacation—and it requires the same type of planning

5/12/2014 1:40:00 PM
You wouldn’t head off on a vacation without planning it out a little, would you? Show up at the airport with no ticket, no bags, and just see what happens? Some people go for this type of adventure, but most of us would feel a little panicked. So why is it that so few people properly plan for their retirement?
Think about it: A typical vacation might last around two weeks. A typical retirement can last as long as 30 years. You wouldn’t plan a vacation without calling around to a few places or even hiring a professional travel agent to coordinate your trip for you, and you should approach your retirement the same way. Call the experts and get the advice you need from those who’ve been there before.
“You have to work out a plan with a financial adviser to know how much money you have to put away each month and each year and how much risk you can take,” said Michael Aziz, an executive investment advisor. “[This] warrants meeting a couple of advisers to make sure they understand your goals and have the tools to help you get there.”
Selecting the right retirement plan—and the right adviser—is like choosing the right vacation spot. Once you’re there it can be difficult and costly, if not outright impossible, to change. Maui might be great for some, but stretching out on a sunny beach isn’t for everyone. Doing your homework before you leave for vacation (and start your retirement savings/investments) is a must if you want to be able to enjoy your time away from work.
“Once you start to visualize [your retirement], then you can start to figure out where you’re at and what you need and arm yourself with the right tools,” said Patricia Lovett-Reid, a senior vice president of a financial institution in Canada. “People will spend more time organizing their closets. What if you spent the weekend organizing your finances? Can you imagine how in control you’d feel?”
Feeling in control might not be the first thing that pops into your head when you think about a vacation, but it’s really what vacation planning comes down to. You don’t want to be forced to eat at McDonald’s because you can’t afford to go to the local hot spots. The same is true in retirement: You want to be able to control your own choices, not have them made for you by a strictly limited budget and a lack of planning that leaves you unprepared.
Proper vacation planning also means giving yourself a safety net for unexpected events. This is even more important in retirement, when age-related health issues can become a major source of expense for many Americans.
“Something that a lot of people don’t actually think about is long-term care,” said independent insurance adviser Monica Olenroot. “What happens if a couple retires and all of a sudden one spouse has to go into a long-term care facility or requires in-home care?”
In short: Be prepared. What works to make a happy vacation works to make a happy retirement. Know where you want to go, take steps to ensure you can afford it, and contact professionals who can help make your experience easy and enjoyable. A little bit of planning can go a long way, and your retirement will thank you for it.

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