What does your retirement look like?

Some experts argue that rather than going straight to the numbers when planning for retirement, we should start by looking at the bigger picture.

Connecting with your future self can sometimes feel a little daunting. But rethinking what we mean by retirement and being more creative with our planning might just do the trick.

Life as a creative project

Life and business coach and mentor Jo-Anne Hook advocates a values-based approach to retirement strategies and thinks we need to change the whole discussion around retirement.

“I’m allergic to the word 'retirement',” Hook says. “It’s a life change, a key point in life where you make some changes."

For me it’s a creative process. Creating and designing life with a whole-of-life approach.

Jo-Anne Hook

It’s an approach that many retirees appear to be embracing. A Roy Morgan report, State of the Nation no.14 (2013), showed that more than 50 per cent of small business owners in Australia are aged over 50 (up from 38.8 per cent in 2002). The report reveals that many people now viewing their more mature years and retirement very differently from the stereotypical view of sunset walks.


Put future ‘you’ on your agenda

With retirement ages inching upwards our working lives are becoming longer, and it’s tempting to put retirement strategies in the too-hard basket or leave them for the future.

Research shows that women are not only likely to live longer than men on average, but they spend less time in the workforce (due to such factors as working part time), tend to earn less and as such are less likely to have adequate super and retirement plans. Because of this, it’s even more important for women to consider their future.

You need to plot your independent life.

Hook says she always puts retirement planning on her client’s agenda, no matter what their age.

“It’s a re-think of how to prioritise your activities. Even when you’re young and healthy you need to plot your independent life forward.”

Use your imagination

Before you plan for retirement, you need to imagine what it might look like for you.

“You need to know what you’re going to do on the day after your retirement,” she says.

“Imagine your ideal without thinking about how you’re going to create it,” Hook says. “The first step is a creative process and you don’t want to be getting into how we’re going to do it.”

What does my future look and feel like? Ask yourself big questions such as:

  • What does my 90-year-old ‘self’ want to have done?
  • What are my values, what is important to me?
  • What does retirement look like to me – will it be a gradual transition to retirement or early retirement? 

Imagine your ideal without thinking about how you’re going to create it. The first step is a creative process and you don’t want to be getting into how we’re going to do it.

Start planning

Just as you’d set goals, make plans and find mentors in both your career and life, you should do the same for your retirement.

After imagining what you want to be able to do in your ideal retirement, ask what you need to do to make it happen.

“Ask yourself what it will take – there could be financial, physical or mental considerations,” Hook says.

This is also the time to ask more practical questions such as:

  • When can I retire?
  • Will I have enough money?
  • How will I manage the changes to my lifestyle?
  • Should I seek expert advice?
  • Who will my support networks and communities be?

She also recommends seeking out retirement inspiration from others: who is doing it well and what was their approach?

Keep learning

“Keep the learning phase open until you’re 98 and build some good foundations and good habits,” Hook says. “Good money management is just a good habit.”

Retirement can even be an extension of your career and include decisions that develop your skills, expertise or earning potential.

For Hook, good retirement planning is about anticipating future needs. Money is simply the key to freedom and choice.

“Our values stay the same, essentially, but they prioritise differently at different stages of your life. What's enough money to give you freedom and choice and what activities will you fill that time with and do they match your values?”

Time to put that imagination to use and plan for your retirement.