Do the ‘week’ test to help plan your retirement

Woman writing in notebook

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There were quite a few moments when I was researching for the book Retirement Ready? when I felt I had discovered a great idea. One of them came during my interview with Flinders University’s Associate Professor Joanne Earl.

She said, ‘When people ask me, “how much money do I need to retire?” I say to them, “wrong question.”’

She came up with a series of other questions: What do you want to do when you retire? Who are you going to do it with? What sort of activities are you going to do?

Those kinds of questions, she said, will ‘drive a lot of other decisions’.

She had one other question—the one I thought was a good idea: ‘What would a typical week look like for you?’ This could be a helpful tool in working out what you’re planning to do in retirement because you have to think through what you will do.

There are four advantages to this approach:

1. It’s practical

And simple. Take a piece of paper and draw seven boxes on it. Label each box from Sunday to Saturday. Now, what does your typical retirement week look like? Some will quickly put ‘golf’ in three of the days. Others will struggle with trying to work out where to put everything on the list. Then there will be others who will struggle to imagine a post-work week.

It’s worth persevering with this as a tool to help you plan your retirement.

2. It emphasises the ‘typical’ week

Remember that this is about a typical week, not about when you’re away on that overseas trip, or working on a special project, or anything that’s out of the regular. For grey nomads, travel may be ‘typical’, but even they have to think beyond travel to when they get back home.

In retirement, you have the opportunity to be flexible, but knowing your expectations for a typical week will bring with it a routine that’s helpful for living the kind of life you want.

3. It offers a chance to evaluate your retirement life

Your typical week will help you understand that what you’re saying is important to you in your retirement. Having set it out, you can adjust it to increase time for some activities, take away time for others, or change it completely.

To take advantage of this process, it’s worth doing at least several months before retirement. That allows you time to think it through more fully than, say, the week before you retire.

4. It helps set priorities

Any ‘typical’ week will have some things that you want to do (work on that hobby, for instance) and some things you believe you must do (keeping in touch with family, perhaps). As you write them down you will also be prioritising them.

Of course, when you reach retirement, some of its realities may bring changes. That’s natural. The typical week is not set in concrete, but the exercise has value in helping you in your retirement planning.

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of RetireNotes.com

Category: Planning

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