This may sound like the dumbest question ever. All I have to do is show up with enough money to live for the rest of my life. Right? Yes and no.

We have all heard of the golden parachute. Usually this is for a senior executive of a large corporation that gets paid a lot of money if he or she is suddenly out of that big job. Going from who’s who to just plain; “Who’s that?” You have a golden parachute because you are jumping off the cliff into sudden retirement, and the money is there to make a soft landing, hopefully.

But, a lot of us jump off the retirement cliff without a parachute, even if we have successfully saved and invested our money for retirement. Being able to fund the future in this third, great phase of life with assets that pay you to be you is paramount, but the most golden investment is investing in your life, then integrating the two. This is the real golden parachute.

When you look down the barrel of your financial resources with the aim on the future, it is critical to be clear about the target. Retirement planning allows you to take a look into the future. You can be intentional. With planning, you can give yourself permission and the freedom to search, find and fund the life you really want. You can cut yourself free to be creative, to design how you want to live, who you love to be with, doing what you love to do and being where you love to be. Planning is king.

What’s more, the planning process, which includes both the financial and the living, pays the biggest dividend of all before you set foot on the shores of actual retirement. You get to begin your retirement in advance. You get to enjoy your retirement in advance. You get to live your retirement in advance. Then, you get to show up to your retirement fully prepared for your personal retirement adventure.

Having fun and leisure costs money. Even if you are not directly spending it, the money has bought you the time not to have to be working to earn money. So, having fun and enjoying yourself has a cost.

However, the enjoyment you have about your future retirement, the excited anticipation, the forward thinking with dynamic creativity where you see possibilities is a free, added dividend. It is already paid for and you are not drawing down on the asset of your retirement nest egg. Here is the kicker. You actually begin your retirement on the day you have a good plan. How cool is that?

Think about it. When you might plan a two week vacation as a reward for your hard work, to do what you love to do, with whom you love to be with, where you love to be, you get excited in advance. You talk about it with anticipation, it soothes you when you might be stressed with work and daily living. It gives you a destination in your mind that takes you out of any momentary hassle into the land of your dream where all is well and beautiful. You enjoy your vacation in advance. You have the confidence of the road ahead. It’s going to be good!

Having a solid retirement plan, both financial and for life, is about aligning your head and heart. You enjoy your thoughts about your future retirement now. You embrace the future with your heart. It makes the effort all worthwhile. You know where you are going. In sports, the champion wins before entering the arena. Everyone else arrives and tries to figure out how to win. The champion wins in advance. Who do you think enjoys the arena more, the champion or the non-champion? Be a champion at retirement.

What it take to be successful in retirement is to be successful in planning. Having a retirement planning specialist is like having retirement insurance. Champions have coaches. When you plan you anticipate the future. True, the future often has unexpected twists and turns, but planning allows you to be quickly super responsive to events as they might happen and to get back to a center point. You avoid misfortunes by anticipating them in advance. That is what a good retirement planning specialist does. The champion is prepared for opportunity and adversity, and working with a specialist in retirement planning is essential for success. 

An intelligent, integrated retirement financial plan that supports your living in retirement includes five pillars:

  1. Secure income plan
  2. Growth plan
  3. Tax-efficiency plan — for “usable money”
  4. Protection plan
  5. Legacy plan

In retirement, you best have a good guide to help you safely ski down the backside of the mountain. The skills that got you to the top of the mountain are not the skills that will get you all the way back home. Retirement planning is a specialty in safety and protection.

When we fill our time with positive challenges, relevance, healthy stimulation and engaging adventures we have the ingredients for well being. When we add to this the knowing that every month in retirement we receive paychecks and playchecks that will pay for our needs, wants and wishes, and we also know these checks will come in month-after-month as long as we live, this is now a complete recipe for happiness. Planning is the key. Plan like a champion and do it with a retirement specialist.

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