Lifestyle planning is about determining how you want to live as you age and ensuring that you acquire the resources and supports you will need to live in this manner. Lifestyle planning also addresses planning for contingencies, the “what ifs” in life that are or may be out of our control such as disability, chronic illness or even future transportation needs.
Lifestyle retirement planning
Traditionally, retirement was seen as a time to relax, slow down and do very little because of old age and poor health. Generally, retirement occurred at 65 and life expectancy was 70. Retirement planning was focused on the financial necessity of having enough money and assets to last into retirement.
Today, good retirement planning looks beyond money and assets, and focuses on meaningful living. Individuals and families need to thoughtfully consider what sort of lifestyle they wish to maintain. Lifestyle considerations include: relationships to family and friends; mental and physical health; community and volunteer involvement; leisure activities including travel; and other factors related to aging such as mobility, transportation and age-appropriate housing.
The term “lifestyle” is our “way” of living. Your lifestyle is developed over time and reflects a complex set of choices based on personal or shared values and experience (both successes and failures). Planning involves asking yourself the question, “Can I maintain my lifestyle in retirement both from an emotional and financial perspective?”
Lifestyle issues to consider
Lifestyle planning encompasses all areas of life. Some of the most recognized facets of lifestyle planning are:
- Financial security. Money allows you to pay for basic needs like food, shelter, clothing and transportation as well as the activities and things that bring enjoyment to your life. Ensuring financial security means understanding the basic financial concepts of spending less than you earn, knowing your net worth, paying down debt and understanding tax implications.
- Home and location. Your home and location refer not only to your house, but also your community. They refer to where you spend your time and might include other places like a recreational property. Part of lifestyle planning is to think about where you are living and whether that is the ideal place for you in the future. You have a number of available housing options. These choices are based on several factors, including: your personal situation; lifestyle preferences; cost and affordability; changing needs due to aging; and the housing options available. The key is for you to make decisions about living arrangements that are appropriate for your unique circumstances, including consideration of age-friendly and barrier-free design.
- Health and wellness. We all want to remain as healthy as possible throughout our lives, including our senior years. When it comes to health, it’s not only physical health that matters. Healthy aging is a lifelong process of optimizing opportunities for improving and preserving health and physical, social and mental wellness, independence, quality of life and enhancing successful life course transitions.
- Social relationships. Family and friends are an important part of life. Nothing in life is accomplished without some influence from others. Work can be a big part of your social structure so when you retire, it’s important to create new relationships to replace the relationships that were lost at retirement.
- Estate planning. Estate planning is not only about legal, financial and tax implications; it includes family and relationships, and how to plan your affairs for a time then you are unable to look after them yourself.
- Transportation and mobility. The ability to travel to the destinations you need or want to get to is important for maintaining well-being, quality of life and independence. Like all Albertans, seniors rely on transportation for day-to-day activities, such as attending appointments, accessing health care, buying groceries, getting to work, and attending social and recreational activities. The ability to drive, or access private and public transportation options are key to maintaining your desired lifestyle.
- Hobbies and interests. Hobbies and interests are about fulfillment. Life is more meaningful when you are doing things that you enjoy and give you personal satisfaction. This might include travelling, fishing, gardening or hiking in the mountains. Part of life planning is thinking about what activities and hobbies make you happy.
- Work and career. Many people say if you love what you do for a living then it does not feel like work. Are you happy with the work you are doing? Do you see the work you do as something you are going to keep doing? Are you planning to work in retirement? If so, is it similar to what you are doing today or completely different? Working in retirement is becoming more and more common so it should be part of the retirement planning process.
- Contribution. Your life will change when your priority shifts from accumulation to contribution. Giving back to others is a big part of self-actualization and fulfillment. Volunteering, charitable giving, and helping friends and family are ways to give back and can provide tremendous satisfaction and reward.
- Major purchases. Major purchases happen at all stages of life and can affect your savings and other retirement assets. As much as possible, major expenditures should be dealt with before you retire.
- Perspective. Everyone has a different sense of who they are and why you are here. Your view of the world flows directly from the values that you hold and the primary purpose of your life. What is it that gets you up in the morning and makes you want to face the day? Where do you find meaning in your life?
This list is not exhaustive. No matter what stage you are at in life, lifestyle planning is an opportunity to re-evaluate life and make or adjust your plans proactively. One of the keys to lifestyle planning is finding BALANCE. It’s about having a more holistic approach looking at all aspects of life including leisure, finance, physical, emotional and spiritual wellness.
What other areas of life should we be thinking about for our retirement?