How to work out what’s important for you in retirement

Mature man in coffee shop writing notes on agenda

Image: Goodluz/

It might be worth trying the ‘stick person’ approach to work out what’s really important to you in your retirement. Although not designed specifically for retirement, it’s a tool that helps you understand yourself, your different interests, your priorities, and how they fit your personal story.

I came across the concept in Matthew Bolton’s How to Resist. He uses it to promote motivation and suggests, ‘Sustained motivation comes from a deep sense of who you are and why you care about things.’

In the retirement setting, it’s about who you want to be and what you will care about in retirement.

The stick person approach begins with . . . a stick figure. Draw a stick figure on a piece of paper. The stick figure represents you.

Bolton says the next step is to find 30 minutes or so of quiet time to list next to your stick-figure-self what’s important to you by using the following question prompts. (And, before you ask, yes you can do this without the stick figure, but why? Or, perhaps, why not?)

  1. Who are the people most important to you?
  2. What are the institutions and places most important to you?
  3. What are the moments and stories that make you who you are?
  4. What are your core values?
  5. What are your central concerns?
  6. How do you spend i) your time, ii) your energy, and iii) your money?
  7. What are the things you wish you could change if you had the power? 

The value of knowing what’s important to you

There are other ways of working out what’s important to you in retirement (for instance, I’ve used the PIP approach—Passions, Interests, and Priorities—in retirement workshops), but this a much more comprehensive list.

Bolton reports that, ‘When we run this session on our residential training courses we have had people totally reassess their priorities, quit jobs, call up loved ones to apologise, and decide to dedicate themselves to making a difference.’

In the context of retirement, this kind of process can help you to work on planning for and preparing for a retirement built around what’s important to you. To help you make your retirement significant—for you.

Actually, it’s important to know what’s important for you because you’re planning your retirement, no one else’s. Couples, of course, need to talk with each other to work out the best way for them to have a significant retirement together.

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

Category: Planning

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