In several of my columns this year, I’ve dealt with various myths that exist when it comes to planning for adequate retirement. Money is an important part of planning for retirement. That’s why most articles you will read in various publications will focus on the financial side of preparing for retirement.
But it is not the ultimate goal. It is a means to an end, not an end unto itself.
People need to set goals for their retirement years that will provide fulfillment. For many Christians that means doing volunteer work or mission trips. For some it is educational opportunities or extensive travel. For others it involves valuable time with family or friends. With those goals in mind, the financial goals are set in order to achieve the fulfillment goals. Retirement involves a choice of lifestyle with the objective of creating a more fulfilling, satisfying and happy life. The money is just a means to support that lifestyle.
Obviously if your financial situation in retirement is so bad that you are in abject poverty then it has a major impact on your retirement lifestyle. Otherwise, studies have shown that your happiness during retirement results more from your relationships with friends, family and a sense of connection and purpose in life. Money is just a tool for living that fulfilling life, but it will not create it for you.
You should spend as much time setting goals and planning for your life plan as you do your financial plan. With those life goals and plans in mind, the financial plans will take on an entirely new meaning and purpose. Without the fulfillment goals for retirement in mind, the financial plans often become a dreaded routine that we wish we could avoid. When the purpose for those savings is primary, then the financial planning can be an exciting adventure.
This entire process is summarized well in a quote from Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now, you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines and cast away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”