Am I the only one who hasn't planned for retirement?

By Megan Giles: Retirement Transition Consultant

According to a recent survey conducted on behalf of Merrill Lynch in the USA, 53% of retirees reported that they’d done “hardly any” planning for leisure time in the next twelve months. Further to that 77% reported they had done no planning for the next five years and 84% had not thought ten years ahead.

Is that really such a problem you might ask? Isn’t that what retirement is all about – taking it easy and ‘going with the flow’ without too many pressures? Without a doubt, this is one of the great benefits of saying goodbye to the nine-to-five and it is a sentiment shared by most retirees (92% of survey respondents reported that they enjoy the freedom of a less structured life in retirement).


So sure, you’re certainly not alone when it comes to not having a plan for life after work. I completely understand this – between juggling work, a family and life in general who has time to think that far ahead?

But that doesn’t mean that planning is not important. With life expectancy on the increase, most of us can expect a retirement of 20-30 years in relatively good health. That’s far too long to simply sit on the couch and navel graze.

Without a plan for the social and wellbeing (non-financial) aspects of retirement we run the risk of drifting aimlessly, becoming isolated from the people around us, and getting cranky at the world. Retirement becomes a long, lonely and bleak journey.

What can you do to plan?

Take some time to think about what you enjoy and how you might like to spend your days, i.e. what will give you a sense of purpose.

‘What do you mean’, I hear you say? I have kids, grandkids and aging parents – I know all about their goals and what is important to them (heck, I’d do anything for them) but I draw a blank when it comes to my own dreams and aspirations….I can’t think of anything!

This is a challenge that commonly comes up among the people I work with as they prepare to transition into retirement. How do I help them? Firstly by scheduling our sessions I give them the time (and permission!) to stop, reflect and focus on just them. In doing so we review their ‘current state’ (i.e. what’s going on for them right now), explore in detail what they would like their ideal retirement to look like (i.e. the future state) and then create a small number of (manageable) actions to help them bring that future state to life. In amongst that we consider how one’s identity changes with retirement (and getting comfortable with that) and invariably test any assumptions to reduce the fear factor about stepping into life after work.

If transitioning in to retirement sounds like an area in which you would like some unbiased and independent support, I would love to hear from you. You can find out more about my one-on-one and workshop-based sessions on my For Individuals page.

Another great thing to do is to talk with your significant other about your retirement dreams – the fears and the possibilities, and see how you can support each other and ensure that your goals are in alignment.

"Just when the caterpillar thought her life was over, she began to fly."


If you enjoyed this article you may also like to read Regrets in Retirement and What Should Retirement Look Like for Women Over 60?

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