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Retirement health, happiness requires planning

You turn to your spouse and mention that you are only three months away from retirement. Your spouse smiles. Then you mention that you will have much more time to spend together. Is your spouse still smiling?

Richard Atkinson, author of Don't Just Retire: Live it, Love it!, is an expert in the transition issues faced by retirees and pre-retirees. His research has yielded numerous anecdotes that challenge us to think beyond the financial issues of retirement.

You might work for 45 years. You might be retired for 30 more, which is why such emphasis is placed on retirement savings. Yet when Mr. Atkinson conducted a survey asking people if their financial advisers had ever talked to them on an in-depth level about retirement issues beyond money, 74 per cent said no. (It should also be noted that only 51 per cent said they wanted such advice.)

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The financial services industry continues to evolve. Today we are finding more and more financial advisers are discussing the health and social aspects of retirement planning. Why? Because you generally don't stop using an adviser once you retire, and these are major issues. Many firms are setting up retirement lifestyle transition workshops for their advisers and clients, many hosted by third-party experts like Mr. Atkinson.

The seemingly innocuous question - how will you spend your time in retirement? - is an important one that Mr. Atkinson often asks clients. "One respondent told me he was going to golf every day. I asked him how much he golfed today and he indicated 'Once a week.' I asked him what he would do in the winter and when it was raining, and he was convinced that he would just read golf magazines all day long. After a pause, he turned to me and proclaimed that, all of a sudden, it sounded pretty boring."

Another respondent indicated that she would get caught up on all her soap operas and favourite TV shows. Okay, that's one month planned and potentially 360 months to go.

Mr. Atkinson also notes that materialism decreases and spirituality increases as we age. This doesn't necessarily relate to religion, but family and community interactions may play a more important role in your life than before.

The point is that people don't really think about their retirement lifestyle beyond money. We seem to get stuck on the fantasy side of what we'll do in retirement and fail to give it deeper thought.

For many activities in life, we have coaches and mentors - people who have been through the trials and tribulations that experience brings.

So the next time you're reviewing your financial plan, ask your adviser about retirement lifestyle transition planning. They may have some advice or be able to point you to a workshop that will help you tackle the ancillary issues of retirement planning: your health and social life.

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They might tell you that your spouse will love you more if you get some hobbies and stay out of the house. And you both might be happier if you take that advice.

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About the Author
Personal Finance columnist

Preet Banerjee is a consultant to the financial services industry. You can follow him on twitter at  @PreetBanerjee. You can find his conflict of interest disclosure on his website. More

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