Planning tips for a happier retirement

Retirement is about more than just money, investments and never having to work again. Amongst other things it’s about having more time for the things you enjoy, while at the same time finding a new purpose. However, financial stress can ruin an otherwise enjoyable retirement so it’s important to plan ahead. This is where an adviser can help plan lifestyle as well as wealth.

The idea of retirement and the reality are often two very different things. One is a dream of endless calm days sitting on a beach, spending time on the golf course, travelling, or enjoying grandparenthood. The other can mean a lack of purpose, leading to long days of boredom.

“We have found as advisers that if you don’t spend a lot of time preparing clients for what their life looks like, it can lead to a pretty grim retirement,” says James Willis, Director of Total Clarity Group.

“We’ve had a couple of cases where people went back to work because they felt they’d lost all their purpose, credibility, and identity,” he says. “Their sense of self was tied up in their work.”

Advisers from Total Clarity Group insist on a strong focus on how an individual is going to spend their time in retirement, particularly during the first 12 to 18 months. Willis says lifestyle is just as important as cash flow when it comes to planning for retirement success.

“We insist that they create a list of activities they’re going to be involved in, as well as a program for what their days are going to look like,” he says.

People who choose to work beyond 65 years, or pursue other interests and hobbies, tend to be happier than those who do nothing. Jobs get us out of the house and encourage interaction with others while also contributing to more activity, thus keeping you healthier – and earning a little extra money is always a bonus.

Planning for early retirement

Anecdotal evidence suggests more advisers than ever, particularly those over 55, are considering early retirement.

Whether the retiree is an adviser or the client of an adviser, life purpose will always be as important as cash flow, Willis explained.

“What do they want to do for society or for the world at large? This is where a sense of purpose typically comes from. What groups, bodies, organisations, etc., do they want to work with? We encourage them to make some initial enquiries.”

This all becomes more important when an individual no longer has that nine-to-five routine, Willis says.

“Having a clear purpose is absolutely crucial to a happy retirement. The purpose doesn’t have to be changing the world, but it does have to be something that is true to the individual’s beliefs and philosophies and true to what they want their life to look like.”

What does successful retirement planning look like?

Willis says retirement success is a delicate mix of financial and lifestyle awareness. It’s knowing how much you have to spend and what you're going to spend it on.

“It’s a balance between understanding their cash flow and knowing how they’re going to spend their time,” he says. “That forms a strong idea of how the purpose they’ve had for 40 years is going to be replaced by purpose in other things they do.”

Retirees should also consider how their needs might change over time. For instance, in the first few years of retirement, they might want to travel or take up a new hobby. Later, they might wish to downgrade from the family home or move into a retirement village.

Advisers should help clients explore what they want their retirement to look like and create a plan that will help them live the lifestyle they want. This means working through the different income sources they will need to fund the different stages of retirement.

Whether retirees are interested in spending more time with friends or family, volunteering or even just going at it alone, finding meaningful ways to make the days more interesting, will lead to a happier retirement.