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 of 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 CAPS high-growth favorite Gigamedia (NASDAQ:GIGM), your investment habits may need to change as you age.

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

  • Large, stable, perennial dividend-paying stocks such as Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) and IBM (NYSE:IBM).
  • Old-school blue chips with big, sustainable, long-term advantages such as Boeing (NYSE:BA) and DuPont (NYSE:DD).
  • Value stories such as 3M (NYSE:MMM) and Costco (NASDAQ:COST).

Expanding your horizons to consider new investment 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 looked last year 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 one-month 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.

This article, written by John Rosevear, was originally published on May 1, 2008. It has been updated by Dan Caplinger, who doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. Costco is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Costco and 3M are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Procter & Gamble is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Procter & Gamble and Costco. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy tells you what you really, really want.