The Six “W” Questions of Retirement

A major part of our job as financial planners is to help people like you plan and save for retirement. It’s critical we continually take a hard look at what we’re doing to ensure you remain on track to reaching your retirement goals.  Has anything changed in your life that could affect your retirement?  Has your vision for retirement changed?  Do we need to change how much money you’re saving, or how you’re saving it?  Are your income needs still taken care of?

To make sure you’re still on track, we recommend that you ask yourself the following questions at least once every couple years.  I call them:

The Six “W” Questions of Retirement

Do you remember learning the six “W” questions in grade school?  They go as follows: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and HowFor decades, these questions have served as an excellent way to gather information, whether you’re a journalist, a detective, or anything in between.  But these questions can also apply to planning for retirement.  For example, ask yourself:

Who do I want to spend my retirement with?  

One of the greatest joys of retirement is that it can provide you with more time to spend with the people you love.  So ask yourself, who are the people you most want to spend time with?  Your spouse?  Your grandchildren?  Old friends?  People in your golf club, acting class, or Church group?  Whatever you come up with will help you answer the next question:

What do I want to spend my retirement doing? 

If the answer to the “Who” question is your grandkids, then the answer to the “What” question may be, “I want to spend my time teaching my grandchildren how to fish.”  If “Who” equals your spouse, then “What” may be “re-living our honeymoon.”

When do I want to retire? 

A very important question.  Have you always dreamed of retiring early, or are you someone who would rather work for as long as possible?  The answer will determine how much you’ll need to save for retirement, when to take your Canada Pension Plan benefits, and so on.                                       

Where do I want to retire to?  

Some people stay put after they retire; others move somewhere far away.  You’d rather live closer to your other family members.  Maybe you’re looking for a different climate.  In the end, you should retire to wherever will best allow you to accomplish the things you want to do, with the people you want to do them with.

Why do I want to retire? 

A surprisingly important question.  You should never retire just because you’re 65, or because you don’t know what else to do.  People who make that mistake often find retirement to be boring or unfulfilling.  Instead, ask yourself why exactly you want to retire.  If the answer is something like “because I want to broaden my horizons and grow as person,” or “because I want to write that novel I’ve always had kicking around in my head,” then you will probably be happier than if the answer is simply, “because I’m tired of waking up at 8 a.m. every day.”

How will I pay for my retirement?  

This is key.  As you know, you can’t just pick a day to stop showing up to work and think that’s enough.  Retirement creates a massive lifestyle change, one that will be quite upsetting to your finances if you don’t prepare for it.

Now, if your thinking: “I’ve discussed some of these things before”, things change.  Plans change, priorities change, circumstances change.  As a result, your vision for retirement could have changed without you even realizing it.  More importantly, your path to retirement may have changed.

As you can see, asking yourself the six “W” questions is a necessary step to planning for retirement.  Having an updated vision for retirement ensures an updated road to retirement.


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