Retirement Readiness:
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Are you ready for what's next? For that matter, are you ready for what you're experiencing now?

Young people have the luxury of imagining that life will only get better and better. Middle-aged people can at least pretend that they have reached a comfortable plateau. But once we get into retirement, we are wiser as well as older, and we know that more changes are in store, and that not all of them will be good.

So again, are you ready for what's next? And seriously, what about now? Are you anywhere near making the most of your life as it is today?

1. What do you want your life to be like now, and in your remaining years?

There are two things we have in retirement that most younger folks don't have: (a) the time to reflect on our lives and how we can still get the most out of them; and (b) the wisdom to this productively.

Still, life continues to be big and complicated, and however much we know, we can never know it all. So we can all use some help, starting with an organized way of approaching the matter.

One helpful way to look at life is with what we call the SPLASH model. This model divides all the key issues and concerns in your life into six categories, with the most fundamental ones at the bottom, and the less concrete (but arguably the most important ones) at the top. Here is what the model looks like, and a few of the key issues that relate to each area.

Spirit: What matters beyond the physical details of your life
Purpose: Activities that give meaning to your daily life
Love: Your connections to others you care about
Avocation: What else gives you joy and satisfaction
Security: Providing financial and physical shelter
Health: Taking care of your physical and mental well-being

    Spirit: What matters beyond the physical details of your life
  • What is the meaning of life, and of your particular life?
  • How do you connect with whatever religious, spiritual, or other reality you believe in?
  • Are you prepared to deal with aging and death, in yourself and those you care about?
    Purpose: Activities that give meaning to your daily life
  • Should you be doing paid or volunteer work in retirement?
  • How do you engage productively and satisfyingly with your community, the nation, or the world at large?
  • What legacy do you want to leave behind?
    Love: Your connections to others you care about
  • How to make the most of your marriage (or relationship with another kind of life partner or significant other)
  • How do you develop and maintain solid relationships with other family and friends?
  • How do you manage when care-giving is required?
    Avocation: What else gives you joy and satisfaction
  • What leisure activities make sense for you now?
  • What opportunities should you take to continue to improve and exercise your mind?
  • How do you maintain your lifestyle as you age, and as you become less physically or mentally adept?
    Security: Providing financial and physical shelter
  • What financial decisions need to be made to assure you of continued means to live as you wish?
  • Where and in what kind of domicile should you live, and how do you maintain it as you get older?
  • What legal or financial steps should you take to prepare for incapacity or death?
    Health: Taking care of your physical and mental well-being
  • What should you be doing in the way of exercise, nutrition, and sleep?
  • What medical professionals should you consult, and what kinds of medications or therapies should you be using?
  • What can you do to fight off harmful attitudes, feelings, and habits, and to promote happiness and wellbeing?

Click any of the six main topic areas Spirit, Purpose, Love, Avocation, Security, or Health or better yet, try them each in turn, to explore in more detail the specifics of what each is, and why they all matter. As you may already realize, some of the items listed above could fit into more than one category. This is unavoidable: Life does not actually fit into neat boxes. The intention here is to cover all the key areas in one place or another, and as you visit each section, we will explain the main connections to the other sections.

2. Are you on track to live the rest of your life with sufficient financial means, even if you run into some adversity?

Even if you have been retired for a while and are living within your means, this is not an easy question to answer. Financial markets can crash, severe and expensive illness can arise overnight, family members might need help from us. It's not news any more: all kinds of things can happen!

So the question is a difficult one, but far from hopeless. Fortunately, there is an excellent planning tool available that does just this job, and it has been specifically built for people in your situation. It may take you two or three hours to work through it, possibly even more, but that's because it's thorough, not because it's difficult. If you are the person in your household who handles the finances, this is something you can do yourself (or if not, get help from the person who does handle the finances). For the modest price and trouble it will cost, it is distinctly better than what all but the most expensive personal financial planners can do for you.