Part III: Throw Out Everything You Ever Thought About Retirement

Posted in Retirement.

     Unless you’ve been living in the bush in Papua New Guinea for the last couple of years, you have probably seen the Visa Signature advertising campaign that exhorts us to check a number of things off a list that they have entitled “Things to Do While You’re Alive.” This grandiose to-do list includes relatively inexpensive moments like taking in the Northern Lights, to pricier pursuits like riding first class on the Orient Express. 

     I enjoy the campaign so much that I’ve co-opted the idea for my talks on retirement planning as just the kind of free association that forward thinking people need, because when-really- are most of us going to have the time, resources, and freedom to pursue a lot of these things? My biggest and really only critique is that it is a list compiled by a bunch of ad executives sitting around a table. It’s not your list! Hollywood has also jumped into the fray with the recently released “The Bucket List,” where two older men played by the venerable Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman decide devil-may-care to pursue their life long dreams before meeting their maker. Madcap adventure ensues while the two awake to the true meaning of life. Madison Avenue and Hollywood both are taking direct aim at the old retirement stereotypes of weekly bridge games and shuffle board, mostly for the benefit of Baby Boomers who are at this very moment redefining the retirement landscape.

       The question that keeps surfacing for me is: is anybody listening? Dennis Hopper wants us to grab our “dream” and pull up a chair, and the company he represents will help us get there. But based on my experience, I would argue that this is easier said than done. How do we truly create our own list? How do we think outside the box to create our own compelling vision of the future? In other words, what do we want to be when we retire? To assist in this endeavor the consultants over at the True Wealth Community have created a process called “Blueprinting”, a process that goes beyond traditional financial questionnaires and helps us uncover our vision by honestly answering some stimulating open-ended questions:

  • I want to spend my days working on…

  • If I wasn’t so afraid, I would…

  • My life will not be complete unless I…

  • If I knew I would die peacefully in the next 2 weeks I would…

  • In the next two years I would…
  • If I had all the money I ever needed I would spend the rest of my life…

  • I want people to remember me by saying….

  • My most memorable experiences include…

  • The part of my weekly routine I most look forward to is…

  • I feel alive and energetic after I have just…

  • The issue I feel most strongly about is…


     After this, you review your answers carefully, and from them write an outline for your compelling vision that will both excite and motivate you. Your vision should include elements like who you surround yourself with, where you live, how you spend your days, and what you want to accomplish. For best effect, shrink it, laminate it and stick in your wallet to carry around and whip out to inspire you wherever you are. If you’re married then it is critical to share it with your spouse and, if possible, have them share the exercise with you. I have been taken aback at more than one meeting at how far apart a couple’s priorities have been- imagine the couple’s surprise! If this process is followed through with the way it should be, then the foundation is laid for a true commitment to a savings and investment plan that will get you there, one that will not swerve off course at the first sign of an obstacle and go crashing through your 401(k).

     Typically, most retirement goals fall under a few broad, defined categories. They generally include Traveling, Focusing on Family, Volunteering, Starting a Business, Perfecting a Skill, Health and Exercise, Connecting with Friends, and of course, to Keep Working. We’ll explore some of the nuances of each in upcoming chapters. And while an exercise like the one above this can be dramatic and far reaching and dare I say New-Age, let’s not lose sight of our objective here which is to put some real substance into retirement planning efforts that we can actually measure. Because while “saving the environment” is noble and worthwhile, spending one month a year in Antarctica with a team of academics monitoring the polar ice caps has a specific price tag that comes with it. In other words, your dreams should be informed by and follow your values. And while your values are priceless, it is the price of the goal that we can measure.




Keys to Happiness in Retirement Years*:

Loving Family and Friends 56%

Keeping Fit 44%

Not having to worry about money 39%

Keeping your mind sharp 38%

Having a strong religious faith 37%

Staying young at heart 33%

Avoiding stress 29%

Having work you enjoy 23%

Continually trying new things 20%

*Retirement: A Worldwide Wave of Change, Yahoo! Finance, 5/06


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Provided courtesy of Eric D. Etshman, a financial advisor with Dow Financial Group in Wilmington, DE. Eric is a Registered Representative with VSR Financial Services, Inc., Member NASD, SIPC. For more information, please contact him at (302) 765-9753 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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