RETIREMENT PLANNING

Steps Into the Future

Retirement Planning
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You're at the end, Fool! This is it, the final step. You're about to receive the Foolish capstone that ensures a comfortable retirement. In preparation for its unveiling, let's review the lessons of the 12 steps before this one:

  • Step 1. Recognize that retirement is more than choosing a date to do so.
  • Step 2. Determine what it takes and how to get there.
  • Step 3. Know how your job contributes to your retirement needs.
  • Step 4. Recognize when to use and not to use tax-deferred savings.
  • Step 5. Invest like a turtle -- now and in retirement.
  • Step 6. Determine how Social Security fits into your plans.
  • Step 7. Be aware of the impact of working in retirement.
  • Step 8. Recognize that your home is an asset.
  • Step 9. Remember that taxes do continue after you retire.
  • Step 10. Determine how you will receive retirement plan distributions.
  • Step 11. Ensure your hard-earned wealth stays in the family.
  • Step 12. Examine your insurance needs, particularly medical coverage.

So here it is, the one we've all been waiting for, the step of utmost importance, the one that, if forgotten, condemns us to a life of never-ending work. Without further ado and to the blare of trumpets we present for your reading pleasure:

Step 13. When all else fails, repeat Steps 1 through 12.

What?! Those are the final Foolish words? What a rip-off! Know what I think? I think some bozo ran out of important things to say. Where's the complaint board? I want to protest!

Before you e-mail the FTC, the FBI, or the AARP, let us explain why we're ending our retirement primer with a note to repeat Steps 1 through 12. We live in an age of blinking LED displays on VCRs all around the country, as harried, over-stressed people refuse to take the time to read the instruction manuals. Constantly flashing VCR lights, while annoying, harm no one. But flashing lights in retirement plans may.

Plans are just that -- plans. As such, outside influences, over which we have absolutely no control, can cause them to go astray. When that happens, we must go back to the operating instructions and repeat the steps to get those blasted lights to stop flashing, or else things just won't work the way we want them to.

Some, though, may still object to the obvious and demand more. Because the Motley Fool believes in customer service, let's bifurcate this step. Ain't that the neatest word you've seen today? It's a term most often used by lawyers -- surprise, surprise -- that means to divide or fork into two branches. We just discussed the first fork of Step 13, so let's turn to the second.

Your plan might not fail. In fact, it may work gloriously. Are you then home free? The surprising answer is no. The first 12 steps deal primarily with money issues. They really fail to address those facets of retired life that have little to do with finances. Thus, the second fork of this step becomes:

Step 13. Reflect on the personal issues of retirement.

Think about it. You know what the personal issues are. When you no longer work, you have loads of time to fill. When the golf game or fishing gets boring, what takes its place? We have many social contacts during our working lives with our co-workers. Who takes their place to fill our basic human needs for companionship and social interaction? One thing's certain: a couple, no matter how devoted to each other, cannot spend 24 hours per day, day in and day out, in the exclusive company of one another. Both need outside interests and companions.

There are other quality-of-life issues, such as housing and its location, physical health maintenance, availability of community services, work (volunteer as well as compensated), educational interests, and leisure pursuits. These issues will define our life and our happiness in retirement. Money is the tool that keeps us comfortable, but these are the factors that make us who we are. They determine how we live and react during our existence. One-third or more of our lives will be spent in retirement. Therefore, to enjoy those years, we must give these "touchy-feely," largely non-financial factors more than passing consideration. That's only Foolish.

Retirement, Fool, is that time of life at which we have gained sufficient experience to lose our jobs. Or, put another way, we want to amass enough resources so that in retirement we may say, "I wake in the morning with nothing to do, and by bedtime I only have it half done."

These 13 steps are the path to help get us there as comfortably as possible. Use them Foolishly.

[Have a question about saving for your golden years? A community of Fools awaits on our retirement investing discussion board!]

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