My biggest retirement planning mistakes

Looking back, my biggest retirement-planning mistakes had nothing to do with money. Rather, they resulted from not thinking things through and not having a good retirement lifestyle plan in place, for when I did retire.

Because of that, it took me a couple of years to figure things out and get things right after retiring. Unfortunately, I will never get that time back. If I could do things differently, here are some of the mistakes that I would avoid making:

Mistake #1

Deciding to turtle, play safe and hang on for another 7 years

The opportunity cost of staying in a career that you no longer like just so you can max out your pension is high, especially if you have already achieved financial independence. You end up losing precious time and become sour. But there is something about that pension statement with the pre-determined retirement date that keeps us coming back for more. I can’t tell you how much time I spent running the numbers over and over again trying to figure out the right combination that would allow me to move on to something better.

Few people quit a marathon at mile 25 and most people late in their careers will choose to hang in there until the bitter end. But they need to ask themselves: Is it really worth it?

Why continue to waste valuable time putting off something that you are truly passionate about?

Although switching to part-time work means taking a pay cut, finding great work increases the odds of you working longer. Instead of retiring at age 62 feeling tired and worn out, you are thriving and excited by the work you do. By finally making the choice to leave and start your Victory Lap (VL), you no longer go to bed at night dreading the next morning’s work, trying to hang on until another weekend. Making a little less for a little longer while dramatically increasing your daily personal fulfillment is a total win.

Mistake #2

Not knowing my values and what would make me happy in retirement

I’ve learned that a great retirement is not about how much money I have; rather, it’s about an attitude, a way of living, filled with searching and discovery. To have a great retirement, you need to have a good sense of who you are, what you are, what you value and what will make you happy.

Unfortunately, because we are so busy taking care of our families and just trying to survive, we lose touch with our values.

In order to be happy in retirement, you need to get a good feel for who you are. This can be done through self-analysis to identify your abilities, values, drivers and interests. After going through this process, you will know what you are good at, and what you want/need to do with the rest of your life.

Mistake #3

Not starting work on my side gig before I left my corporate job

Working on what I planned on doing in my VL would have been a far better use of my time, instead of wasting it de-stressing in front of the TV for hours at night.

Working on the book, joining Toastmasters, creating my social media platform in advance would have let me hit the ground running when I finally did leave my corporate job. Plus, it would have taken away some of my job stress by giving me hope, and getting me excited about the future.

Mistake #4

Letting my health slide

When I was busy working, there was no time for a healthy lunch or dinner and no time to exercise. I took my health for granted, thinking I could always fix things later when I retired. The truth is that getting your health back is hard work, and when you lose your health you lose your freedom to do the things you enjoy.

I’m spending a lot of time working on getting it back, work that could have been avoided had I not let my good health slip between my fingers in the first place. Don’t let that happen to you!

Mistake #5

Not having a role model, mentor, coach or book to follow

When I started to try to figure this retirement thing out for myself in my mid-fifties (almost 10 years ago) most people followed the traditional full-stop retirement path. I decided to take a different route and if I had had the benefit of a coach or a book to follow, things would have been much easier. I could have saved a lot of time instead of having to figure things out on my own and avoided most of the mistakes listed above. You want to get this right because your retirement lifestyle choices impact the quality of your life over the next 30 years.

Our book Victory Lap Retirement is a good start for people planning for retirement or who have recently retired and are unhappy with how things are going. We are also currently working on a DIY VLR transition guide, which will be released fall of 2020. Between the two books you will have everything you need to figure things out, and with a clear road map for retirement success, everything becomes easier. You will no longer have to waste time like I did wondering what to do. You just need to take action and do it.

Mike Drak is an author, blogger and speaker based in Toronto. He can be reached at Victory Lap Retirement, co-authored with Hub CFO Jonathan Chevreau and (in the US) Rob Morrison, is available online and on Kindle and Kobo ebooks. The paperback edition is available in Chapters Indigo and many independent bookstores, as well as Costco, and the book has been on the Globe & Mail bestseller list. This blog originally ran on Mike’s site on May 16, 2019 and is reprinted here with permission.

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