When we work with clients on their retirement planning, we often ask them to complete an exercise we call the ‘perfect week’.
In this exercise, clients are asked to map out what the perfect week looks like for them in retirement. We create a grid with the days of the week along the top and we divide each day into an AM, PM and evening slot, making a total of 21 ‘slots’ to fill for the week.
Most clients find this exercise fairly simple. Most of us have a pretty good idea about what we would like to do for a week in the ideal world.
Most people will build in some form of travel (perhaps spending the whole of their perfect week on holiday). There will often be meals out with family and friends and ‘experience’ activities like going to the theatre or sailing.
This exercise is incredibly valuable, but it is not the full story.
Retirement is about so much more than just a single week.
As such, we then ask clients to think about repeating this exercise 52 times for each week in the year (to be clear, this is a theoretical exercise – we don’t ask people to actually fill in 52 perfect week sheets).
At this point, people are often a little stuck. It is really easy to visualise a single week or even two or three weeks, but planning out a whole year is a bit harder.
Most people don’t want to (or couldn’t afford to) be on holiday all of the time, so some more thought is required to map out a year.
Once people have given some thought to the 1-year picture, we then ask them to repeat this exercise 30 or 40 more times. This is because there is now a very real possibility that retirement could last 30, 40 or dare I say 50 years for some people.
Thats a total of between 1560 (30 years) and 2600 (50 years) weeks. That’s a long time to plan for.
But plan for it we must. Research has shown that those people who spend significant time planning their retirement are quantifiably happier when they actually do retire than people who have done very little or no planning.
The irony here is that the average American (and one assumes the average person in the UK also) spends longer planning a 2 week holiday than they do a 30 year retirement!
If we are to live a long, and more importantly happy, retirement, we really must give retirement planning the time it deserves.