Retirement – too little?

Almost always the retirement “too little” question is about finances. I want to instead explore the question of whether you have too much (or too little) planned for your retirement from a goal / activity perspective… (This is intended as a getting started guide versus the broader perspective included under Life Planning.)

Replacing a 50 hour structured work week with no formal plan upon retirement can be fun for a while – being spontaneous and doing what you want, when you want!

At some point though (and before you retire is really the ideal time) I believe you will benefit from a structured planning exercise if you want to maximize what you achieve from the next chapter in your life.

So how do you assess what you want to do in retirement to ensure that you have the time to do it all or conversely do you have enough planned to keep you challenged and fulfilled?

This gets into the popular topic of life planning. A little research (aka google search) will result in many approaches and visuals. There are a variety of processes and visual representations, a number of which look well thought out like this one:

My thought is to apply some simple practices from the corporate world to this phase of retirement planning. A typical corporate project planning process starts with high level goals that are then broken down into smaller activities that can be estimated in terms of effort and cost. A mix of affordability, timing, and alignment to the project scope will dictate a project schedule. I would call this tops-down planning.

For retirement planning purposes I suggest a 3 step approach to get started that triangulates bottoms-up with tops-down planning and adds in a visualization exercise.

  1. Brainstorm everything you can think of wanting to do in retirement
  2. Align your brainstorm list to “buckets” and see if that triggers any further thoughts or maybe indicates that one bucket is overflowing while another is too light.
  3. Do a visualization exercise to see if you can push yourself to think about other areas that you want to pursue

A simple way to accomplish steps 1 and 2 is to start with a pad of sticky notes and a large work surface. Quickly write down everything you can think of – one idea per sticky note. When out of ideas separate the sticky notes into the bucket it most closely aligns to. I would encourage using the Retirement Options life arenas as your buckets:

  • Career & Work
  • Health & Wellness
  • Finances & Insurance
  • Family & Relationships
  • Leisure & Social
  • Personal Development

The visualization exercise is more challenging and will take some time. This is important to get you out of your comfort zone and really think about a legacy from the 20, 30, or 40 years ahead. To get started consider these scenarios:

  • Project 20 years into the future and you’re at your 85th birthday party. What would your spouse/partner/kids/friends be toasting? (worked tirelessly as a board member of favorite non-profit, fluent in Italian as you make that your second home, etc.)
  • Again at 85 what pictures and memories would you like to share from your retirement years? (visited all 7 continents or all 50 states, performed stand-up at a local comedy club, etc.)

Assuming the visualization exercise triggers some additional thoughts add those to the appropriate bucket.

Now it’s time to start digging into the details of each. I would start with time as a constraint – do you have too many or not enough activities relative to time available?

To help answer and visualize this here’s a simple spreadsheet that may be useful:

  1. Decide how much time per week you want to plan for (maybe 50 or 60 hours)
  2. Using the inputs tab simply transfer activities from each bucket into the rows and add estimated time per month that you would spend on each
  3. Go to the analytics tab to get a graphical representation of where you stand

That’s a good first pass of what a month/year of retirement could look like from an activity perspective. Getting a cost perspective would be the next step and I’ll cover that in a separate blog – basically you need to ensure that you can afford the activities you want to be doing in retirement!

If you have any questions or feedback please drop me an email:

Thanks for being here!