What does your future look like?

If you’re getting ready to retire, visualize what you want your life to look like — and figure out how much it will cost

To plan for retirement, it’s a good idea to think about what you want your retirement to look like. With a clear picture in mind, you can then set goals and figure out what needs to be done to reach those goals.

Tim Eggers, field agricultural economist at Iowa State University, has designed a model called Retirement Planning for farm families by which farmers can do just that. The following exercise is part of a course designed by Eggers and colleagues and used in several states.

Step 1: To begin to visualize what retirement will be look like, Eggers advises farmers to first draw a picture of their retirement fantasy. The limitations of geography, health and finances will come into this but not just yet. For now, just let go and make a sketch of what you want to be doing in retirement.

Step 2: Take another blank sheet of paper and write the words that would describe that dream retirement. In another column — maybe divide the paper in half down the middle — write the words you do not want to be used to describe your retirement.

Some people view retirement as a time of opportunity; for others, it’s a time of fear and uncertainty. This exercise will help you see the positive and negative expectations you have about that phase of life.

For example, words such as freedom, options and relaxation might be used to describe an ideal retirement, while words such as restrictions, stress and ill health describe a less than ideal one.

Step 3: Write a paragraph about the things you want to do or perform in retirement. Some of these may have shown up in the picture you drew in Step 1. Do you see yourself travelling? Spending more time with the grandkids? Is it time to finally take those university classes? To write that novel?

Step 4: Write a paragraph about the things you want to be or exist as in retirement. Maybe different roles you would like to assume in community or faith organizations? You’ll have more time now; is this a time to provide leadership to groups you felt you you were unable to provide when you were a full-time and lots-of-overtime farmer? Is it time to say yes to serving on a board or committee?

Step 5: Write a paragraph about the things you want to have, possess, own or hold in retirement. Are there things on your wish list? Things you feel you’re been working to acquire. Alternatively, are there intangible things, like recognition in a community that you want to have in retirement?

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Step 6: The fourth paragraph is for the things you want to contribute, give or help to bring about in retirement. These may be financial or time-related. They could be political or social change related. Examples might include setting aside money or land for a charity or cause, donating several hours a week to helping others or campaigning/lobbying for a political party or cause or spending more time with your grandkids.

“The four paragraphs above can help to provide the positive expectations regarding the retirement phase of an individual’s life,” Eggers writes.

Now, let’s get practical. With picture and paragraphs at hand, outline the things you need to be doing now to make your dreams a reality.

What do you think you want to do? What do you need to do? What will it cost and what additional money will be required?

When doing this exercise, says Egger, many older farmers realize there are farm tasks they don’t enjoy doing that others might. Others might decide it’s time to take a break from some of the decision making.

He suggests farmers ask themselves, “what am I wanting to accomplish in five, 10, 15 years?”

Make a budget, including estimated living expenses, travel costs and supplemental insurance.

But what about the farmer who goes through the exercises, sees what he/she wants to do and wonders if there’s enough money?

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“In a face-to-face setting, the starting point for this is the timeline,” he says. “It starts with the current year and then we go off to some age that seems sort of silly. Sometimes folks approach estate planning like they’re immortal.”

That’s when it’s time to look at life expectancy tables. See how many years you’re expected to live. Now mark that on a timeline.

Putting an expected date of death on a timeline does seem pretty harsh, he concedes, “but it sort of pushes it back to what do I do now? More elderly people in a group setting might advise younger seniors to not put off travel. Do it now. Don’t wait until you’re in your 70s and 80s.”

And remember, it’s your retirement. “My colleague says when it comes to transition planning activities, you have to remember the golden rule: he who has the gold makes the rules, reminding some participants that as the people in the decision process they’re really the drivers of it. It may be that this younger person wants to come in and do things but they are the ones providing or not providing access. “

This visualization exercise is part of a larger 15-hour program. Canadians who don’t have access to the program can still benefit from the exercise by visiting bit.ly/2uBHXVP.

Assuming there is also a spouse in the picture, print off a couple of copies of the exercise.

Work on it separately and then come together and see how your papers compare. In some couples, one party thinks retirement goes one direction, the other thinks it goes in a different direction. Doing the exercise separately and then comparing results can help couples learn more about each other.

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