What do you really want in retirement?

When I think about my retirement, I imagine a series of happy images: summer sun glinting on the water, traveling in my own sailboat or small airplane to faraway places I can explore leisurely, and lots of happy moments shared with friends and family.

I admit that's fuzzy. For me, right now, fuzzy is OK -- retirement is still a long way off. That vision will become sharper as I get closer to the day, but here and now my retirement planning consists of taking good care of my body and my portfolio. So far, so good on both those fronts.

But I know it won't be that simple when the time comes.

It's not only about the money
We talk a lot about the investment side of retirement planning here at the Fool, and with good reason. If you're used to thinking in terms of market highfliers such as Dolby Labs (NYSE:DLB), a high-growth favorite in Motley Fool CAPS, your investment habits may need to change as you age.

There is a host of other, less aggressive ways to invest. Consider some alternatives:

  • Large, stable, perennial dividend-paying stocks such as Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ).
  • Old-school blue chips with big, sustainable long-term advantages, such as IBM (NYSE:IBM) and AT&T (NYSE:T).
  • Oversold value stories such as eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) and maybe Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) -- if you're feeling brave.

Expanding your horizons to consider new strategies is all part of taking a measured approach to stock investing as you near retirement age. And that's a good thing. But it's not the whole thing.

Think about it: Retirement is a huge lifestyle change that goes way beyond financial considerations. With no job to go to, no professional goals, no tasks to occupy your mind, no co-workers to chat with, what will you do all day? If you're married, and your spouse is retiring too, are you ready to be spending all day every day with that person? Are they ready to be spending that much time with you?

Watching TV all day gets old fast. So what are you going to do?

Planning your whole retirement
As you near retirement age, you should give serious consideration to these questions and more. Sure, plan an extended vacation or two, if that's your thing and you can afford it comfortably. But at some point you're going to be settling into a new and different daily routine.

Where will you live? Who will you spend time with? Will you work part-time, or teach, or volunteer, or spend your hours in quiet contemplation of nature? How about your spouse?

Luckily, we have some answers to these questions. In the Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter, advisor Robert Brokamp last year looked at some common points of conflict or unhappiness for retirees. Drawing on research done by Ron Manheimer and Denise Snodgrass of the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement, Robert looked at five real-life stories of retirement discontent -- and shows how forethought and planning could have made retirement smoother and more satisfying for the folks in question.

Sometimes the answer is as simple as to "get out of the house and do something interesting." But sometimes it's not -- and a couple of the situations discussed in the article may surprise you.

If you'd like to read Robert's full article, help yourself to a complimentary guest pass to Rule Your Retirement. The pass will give you full access to the June 2008 issue that includes the article, as well as our entire library of past newsletters and a unique set of planning tools to help you create your own plan for retirement. It's yours for 30 days, with absolutely no obligation to subscribe.

See these articles to learn more about retiring:

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This article was originally published on May 1, 2008. It has been updated by Dan Caplinger, who owns shares of Starbucks and Philip Morris International. Dolby Labs, eBay, and Starbucks are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. eBay and Starbucks are Inside Value picks. Johnson & Johnson is an Income Investor pick. The Fool owns shares of Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy tells you what you really, really want.