In order to get clarity on how much you need for retirement, you’ll first want to consider these 3 questions that can help you answer that question.
Fact Checked by Taylor Sundeen, CFP®
One of the top questions people nearing retirement often ask us is, “Will I have enough to retire?”
But that’s a bit like asking, “Did I pack enough clothes for vacation?”
How much you pack depends on where you’re going, what you plan to do, and how long you’re going to be there.
In other words, it depends on your lifestyle.
After all, one of the benefits of retirement is the ability to design what kind of lifestyle you want to experience.
And by lifestyle, we mean the ways you want to design your life in retirement as opposed to your current working lifestyle. Because your time is mostly allocated to your work during the week, your lifestyle pursuits are often limited to your weekends, evenings and vacations.
Once you retire, and “every day is Saturday,” you still have a lot of lifestyle time to plan for. Even after accounting for grandparenting, golfing and gardening.
So in order to get clarity on how much you need for retirement, you’ll first want to consider these 3 questions that can help you answer the “Will I have enough to retire?” question.
Retirement gives you a canvas to expand your interests. So when we talk with people about their future in retirement, some of the questions we ask include:
For instance, if golfing is something you enjoy doing now—do you want to do more of that in retirement? Or do you want to try your hand at tennis, or pottery, or teaching a community ed class?
Some retirees discover that what brought them joy before, has changed once they retire. We find that some people enjoy the extra time to pursue their current hobbies, while others enjoy the freedom to try out new ones.
Maybe you love to read, but now you want to write that story that has been simmering in a dusty file on your computer.
Perhaps you enjoy painting, but you really want to try ballroom dancing, scuba diving, or maybe even skydiving.
Give yourself permission to dig out those desires you’ve stuffed in your “someday” folder and see which ones still have life in them. Just because you haven’t done it before, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it in retirement.
Who knows. You may just love it.
If living on beachfront property and sailing every day is your ideal retirement, but you currently live in a landlocked suburb, you’ll probably need to relocate to fulfill your aspirations.
But if you haven’t owned a boat or lived near a beach yet, don’t commit to a lifestyle that might not be as fulfilling.
You might think you’re ready for a new climate or change of scenery. But before you sell your home and uproot your life to another state or country, first give it a few test runs. Get an Airbnb or VRBO and live in your desired location. Try on the lifestyle and cost of living for a few weeks or months—with a few stints in different seasons—to see if it’s really a place you want to plant year-round.
Or do you want the “best of both worlds” by living the snowbird lifestyle—by retiring your snowblower and escaping the harsh winters for several months at a time?
Maybe you have loved ones spread out across the country and want to downsize into an RV, so you have the flexibility to travel anywhere you want.
The point is to rule in or out these possibilities so that you can plan for them—and then enjoy them without the worries of not having enough.
The question of what to do with our dollars is different for everyone. There is no right or wrong answer.
Generally, our relationship with money doesn’t change in retirement. For instance, if you’re a saver now, you probably won’t be a big spender in retirement. Or if a lifestyle of generosity is part of who you are now, it’s likely to continue in retirement. /
But that’s not always the case.
Since retirement can last 30+ years, it also leaves ample time for reevaluation and shifts in priorities. Some retirees who didn’t initially rate it a high priority early on, decide that leaving an inheritance to family or a significant legacy gift to an organization becomes more of a priority later in retirement.'
So continue to revisit this question and ask yourself (and your partner) to what degree you’ll save, spend, give, and pass on what you have. An experienced financial advisor will be able to help you walk through the options you have based on different scenarios, while still accounting for your other lifestyle needs and desires.
Once you have a better idea of the kinds of lifestyles you want to experience in your retirement years, you have a much better grid to work with when considering how much you need to make it a reality.
To continue to spark your thoughts about planning for your retirement, you may want to watch our complimentary video class: 6 Decisions That Need to Be in Your Retirement Plan.