Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Living Well in Retirement - 5 Top Planning Tips

'When the student is ready the master appears.' 
Buddhist proverb

Do you believe in fate or karma? I've had plenty of occasions in my life where I've had reason to believe in both - none more so than stumbling across this article as I rummaged through a pile of papers in my office this time last year.

Thoughts of retirement had been running through my head for a while - and John and I had been working on being financially ready for many years. The article 'Going...Going...Gone: Thoughts on Retirement' by Brian Hawkins and Carol Barone published in Educause Quarterly No 4 in 2008 challenged me to think more widely and deeply about my retirement plans.

Like many I had believed that a successful retirement was all about financial planning. Hawkins and Barone suggested otherwise. Their recommendation was for four plans to be in place - a financial plan, an activities plan, a recreation plan and medical plan.

John and I duely considered this - took the advice provided - and, almost one year on, I can share with you how these plans are working for us!

The Activities Plan - what our day, week, month, year, and even next year look like was an essential starting point for us! We felt 'all at sea' until I purchased a Year Planner where we recorded commitments, appointments, visits to family, AFL football games we would attend and the like. We scheduled and planned getaways, visits to our beach house, major tasks and projects around the house - with start and completion dates - and began developing some rhythmns, routines and patterns in our lives. Finally the time has come when we feel have control of  our lives - what we do, and when, why and how we do it! We are making the most of every day, and that that's a great feeling!

The Recreation Plan  - what we 'play at' or do to follow and grow our interests, develop new skills and keep the brain cells firing has been incredibly rewarding for each of us! John's passion is music and he has indulged this interest for several hours daily. He has found a mentor and teacher online and delights in showing off and sharing his new skills and learning at every opportunity. A keen golfer John is planning to make it onto the golf course one day soon! To date there hasn't been time for that!

I had long dreamed of writing a blog - so I now write two - 'The Living Well in Retirement Challenge' and 'Apricot Tart'. I have found participating in the blogging community very rewarding. Given a Canon EOS 650D for my birthday I am a beginning photographer having only ever taken photos with my iphone prior to this. We are both gaining great enjoyment engaging with and pursuing our passions! It truly is one of retirement's great rewards.

The Medical Plan - this is so important! In my retirement finally I have time to think about myself. I've had time to get my health on track - making significant lifestyle changes. These have included getting back into regular exercise, eating a healthy and tasty diet, reducing stress and fatigue and improving my mental health and wellbeing all round. I've lost weight, am fitter, stronger and more flexible - and I'm feeling great! We have also reviewed our medical insurance cover to ensure it reflects and meets our needs as we are getting older, as well as exploring and familiarising ourselves with our entitlements, as older Australians, under Medicare.

The Financial Plan - we have spent time with our financial planner and accountant in order to understand all the elements of our new financial situation. As we are new to retirement we have also set aside time each quarter to sit together to monitor and review our financial position, budgeting and cashflowing the next few months to ensure we are living within our new means. Like many we have been anxious about that old elephant in the room - 'Will we have enough money?'  I am pleased to report that this planned approach is working and we are able to make decisions and adjustments regarding finances that maximise the quality of our lifestyle.

Having enjoyed the lived experience of retirement for almost a year I would add one further plan to those suggested by Hawkins and Barone.

It's the Lifestyle Plan. Lifestyle decisions we have agonised over this year have included short and long term planning about where to live; what type of housing needs we have; vehicles - one or two, what type, would we keep the current cars or purchase new /secondhand vehicles;  where and when do we want to travel - within Australia and overseas; will we stay in motel/hotel accomodation, camp, caravan or motor home it. And always the bottom line - how will all of these big decisions affect our financial situation - short and long term.

But that's not all! There are a myriad of smaller lifestyle decisions to be considered and made. Things as diverse as 'getting to know each other again', what's for lunch, changed wardrobe, hair and beauty needs - the power suits and killer heels have gone - right through to technology needs necessary keep each of us in touch with and engaged with the world. And the list goes on!

Lifestyle planning has been the most complex and emotive of all the planning we have done - but is critically important. We are taking our time with this area. We can only spend our money once - and many of the decisions to be made are potentially expensive ones. We want to get them right for us!

At this point I would like to sincerely thank Brian Hawkins and Carol Barone for their insightful article - it has had  a huge impact on our retirement. They really proved to be 'the masters' who appeared as I, the student, was ready. I still have no idea of how that article came to be in my papers! Fate or karma perhaps?

To conclude, I have to say that the time spent on planning has assisted us to cope with the many changes we have faced and greatly reduced stress, anxiety and uncertainty we may have felt about the future.

Strengths of the process of planning have been that it has placed us firmly in control of our new present and future, given us a strong, unified sense of direction and has us feeling excited and optimistic about the possiblities and opportunites our new retirement lifestyle offers.

The first year in retirement is a big year! We're enjoying it!



PS: If you're lurking out there - talk to me! What is helping you to prepare for or manage your retirement? I'd love to hear and learn from your experience.


  1. Great post, Marian! Peter and I are in the last few months to retirement now. Would LOVE to have a skype chat with you someday soon xox

  2. Thanks, Liz! John and I would be thrilled to chat to you and Peter! Just let us know when you are ready and we'll set it up!

  3. Awesome post... guess I had better start planning :-)

  4. Thanks Sophie! Believe me - you can't start your retirement planning too early!

  5. Hi Marian. You are much too organised for me. I did worry about money (It is in my nature to worry about money) but that was all. I couldn't wait to retire and I have loved every minute of it.

  6. Hi Glenda! John and I find the process of thinking and talking through the areas outlined in the plans above helps us to not waste a minute - or opportunity - in this wonderful stage of life called retirement! The finance area is critically important - it is really easy for money to magically disappear - if only it appeared as easily. Thanks for your feedback - it's fantastic to hear from someone else loving retirement!

  7. It's so wonderful to read that you are doing great on your retirement year. I'm glad you are able to apply to your daily lives the ideas you learned. Those are great points! Of course, financial planning is always important, but it's also essential that we do not lose sight of the other aspects of our lives.

    Donte Duplessis @ FinancialBrokerageServices.com

  8. I absolutely agree, Donte! Thanks so much for dropping by! Cheers!

  9. I think that planning must be a constant practice. I don't think one ever is done planning when it comes to finances. I think this is a big part of the adaptability this article talked about. Things change and one has to make sure their finances are antiquate for those changes. http://www.duffandassociates.com