From advertisement run by insurance company, investment company to banks, and even the likes of private pension and pension fund, the idea of retirement planning is central on the need to plan early so that we can have adequate savings that sustain our golden years.
That being said, most (if not all) messages revolving around the concept of retirement is more often than not about “whether you prepared enough money for your retirement”.
Imagine people who have been working diligently and save very hard to prepare for this eventual phase of life called retirement for the past three decades. When they finally retire from their full-time work, does this now mean they will have a very good retirement?
I believe that a good retirement is determined not by what product we use to prepare for it, but how we invest our retirement money. In fact, there are three non-financial sides that we should not ignore.
“What we do with this luxury of time is equally important (if not more important) than whether we have prepared enough money for our old age.”
One of the biggest differences between before and after retirement is not just about our main income will come to a stop, but rather, we will now have all the time available to ourselves.
So, what we do with this luxury of time is equally important (if not more important) than whether we have prepared enough money for our old age.
There is a saying that sound like this, “Growing old with lots of money is no longer the goal. Dying rich cannot compete with living rich, and making a living does not measure up to making a life.”
This implies that while we may be rich financially, if we are not rich in life, then those money may not carry any significant meaning beyond fulfilling our basic need.
There are 24 hours a day and this means we will have 168 hours every week now. Before we stop working completely, assuming we spend eight hours a day for our work, and we work 22 days a month, we will now have an additional 160 hours available to us!
So, how are you planning to use this new found 160 hours of your life? Having an idea for this is crucial because how we use our time will determine how our money will be used.
Of course, we will have some ideas about what we want to do when we no longer have to wake up to clock in for work. Maybe we can go shopping, hi-tea with friends, travel and do some of our hobbies. This is such a good thing and it will surely be liberating for us to indulge in these activities. However, do we see ourselves constantly doing this to fill up the 160 additional hours for years or decades? Could we come to a point that these activities that look attractive to us now may then become boring in future (after enough repetition)?
“When we do not find life interesting, we may start to lose a sense of what is worth living for.”
Another key factor for people not retiring well is boredom. When we do not find life interesting, we may start to lose a sense of what is worth living for. It may also lead to us seeking new excitement with the retirement funds we have and in certain extreme situations, the person may even squander away their retirement savings.
On the other hand, people who have retired well and happy in their golden years usually have a few things in common. One such trait is living their life with a purpose. This can include volunteering at certain organisations with a cause they believe in. It may also be work that allows them to use their talents or experience to help the younger generations, such as a mentoring program.
Money is not the main motivator for getting involved in such projects or activities, but rather living a life that is ‘rich’ in meaning and purpose. If we look around, there are many people that can already afford to retire, but yet they are still actively pursuing a certain cause.
Speaking with them to understand their mentality may also help in seeing a different perspective.
“No matter how wealthy or how financially prepared we are, without good health, anything else hardly matters.”
Think about your retirement as having three phases. In early retirement, you hopefully have the time, resources, and fitness to lead an active life. In the middle of retirement, your level of activity will probably start to slow down. And in the third phase, most retirees begin to settle into their homes and prioritise their wellbeing.
It is in the third phase that health care costs can increase dramatically depending on your needs and your personal support network. This is also potentially one blind spot that most people have not come to realise.
Some retirees who anticipate assisted living or in-home nursing purchase medical insurance with very high coverage. But these products only can do so much, i.e. it only pays for our hospitalisation bills and some post-hospitalisation. Other things that require money but not a hospital stay are not covered (yet). Hence, there is still a need to plan for additional funds that cater to these situations and having a back-up fund that we can dip into is crucial.
A more sensible way is to plan and accumulate our retirement savings, while also planning how to keep ourselves healthy and fit so that we enter our retirement with reasonable health.
Sadly, too many seniors put off making these difficult decisions until they are dealing with a major health or financial crisis. Planning ahead puts folks in a much better position to choose how and where they are cared for on their own terms.
No matter how wealthy or how financially prepared we are, without good health, anything else hardly matters.
Retirement Planning Is Never Just About Numbers
Back to those advertisement messages we are bombarded daily, those are messages about how financial products can help us prepare for retirement. But it is not preparing for a full retirement as money is just part of the picture.
In order to plan holistically for a retirement that really has meaning, you will have to engage in deeper conversation that helps you in understanding yourself better, discovering your personal values, identifying how you envision your retirement life to be, and how are you going to fill up your 168 hours a week, before looking at the numbers.
Real retirement planning should be a process that integrate numbers, and your life. Because eventually, it is the person (you) that gives meaning to the number, not the other way around.
About the Author
Kevin is a NextGen Money Mentor and founder of NextGen Independent Advisors. He works with people to transform their relationship with money and be brave in their pursuit to live a meaningful life with their money. He is a CFP professional, a certified member of Financial Planning Association Malaysia (FPAM). Kevin can be contacted at www.kevinneoh.my.