We want you to rethink retirement, and we believe that with three simple questions, we can help you to do just that.

For most people, retirement has all the same connotations as ‘old age’. We know it will probably happen someday, but we don’t like the sound of it, and we don’t want to think about it too much. As for retirement planning, for most people that’s about as popular as a trip to the dentist.

Time for a re-brand

So, what if we ‘re-branded’ retirement as ‘Life2’? Life1 is the part when you study, work and earn. Life2 is when you enjoy the rewards of your efforts and live the life you always wanted to live. A life that’s defined by your passions and your goals, not your boss’s spreadsheet. (All credit here to retirement expert Don Ezra, who created the concept of Life2.)

Getting from Life1 to Life2 is all about setting goals – meaningful goals that will determine the life you want to lead and can then be intrinsically linked to your financial objectives. It’s also about being crystal clear on your priorities, which can be a real challenge. It’s even more difficult when very few people have any grasp as to what their life goals actually are. To help you overcome this hurdle, have a go at answering three questions. These questions are so powerful that you might want to set aside some time to consider them carefully. I honestly believe they have the potential to be life-changing!

The three questions

Are you ready? Here we go:

You win 10 million pounds in the lottery – what’s the first thing you spend it on?

This is a big, exciting question and there are probably ten million different answers. Indeed, it’s likely that you will have more than one answer to all of these questions, which will simply add depth to your plan. When I asked myself this question, the first thing that came to my mind was: I would pay off the mortgage. I really enjoyed thinking about the freedom that getting rid of that millstone would bring. However, I did also write down a new car, a makeover for the garden and giving some money to charity… exciting stuff!

You have 5 to 10 years left to live – ­ how will you change your life?

Again, there are so many different answers. When I gave this some thought, I realised that I didn’t want to leave this world having seen so little of it. I would love to travel more, and far more widely. The other key answer for me was simply spending more time with my family. I spend far too much time in front of a computer and not enough with the people who are important to me.

And the final question… the one that will really get you to hone in on your top priorities.

You have 24 hours left to live – what are your regrets?

As soon as I asked myself this tough question, I knew that my biggest regret would be not having children. I would be exiting without having left any kind of legacy.

My discoveries

Putting myself through those questions was a revelation. Finally, I have some clarity about what I’m aiming for.

I want to be mortgage-free as soon as possible. I want my working life, Life1, to allow me to have enough time and money to let me spend Life2 travelling to all those countries on my wish list.  I also now realise that I want to give some serious thought to having children.

These are all life-changing goals. The three questions have allowed me to strip away the froth and come to these very important realisations.

The strategy

Once you answer these questions, you will have a handle on your true goals. The way that you save and invest can then be directed by these goals.

As you list your answers, you should be able to place them under three headings:

1. Capital expenditure (mortgage, car, garden)

2. Time (travel, family time)

3. Legacy (my kids, charity)

Starting with the first heading, you should now have a concept of some of your planned, significant spends. This could be useful in determining how to put your pension’s tax-free cash to use, for example. Next, understanding how your time will be filled will allow you to determine if you would like to continue working part-time, alongside understanding likely regular financial outgoings (travel, for example).

This should be fairly helpful when considering the level of regular income you may need from your investments. Once you are confident you have the finances required to support ‘Capital expenditure’ and ‘Time’, you will then be liberated to potentially gift what is left over to provide for the ‘legacy’ you would like to leave.

Paradise vs reality

I can already hear you yelling that I have my head in the clouds. These aspirations might well be what you want, but can you really afford them? Are they even realistic? If not, how do you go about prioritising them?

This is where working with a high-quality financial planner can be extremely beneficial. Now you have clear retirement goals and ambitions, a planner can use cashflow modelling to create a timescale and a detailed plan to get you to where you want to be. This should help provide visual clarity around precisely how much you will require and how sustainable your income needs are.

It may be that the conclusion is that your ‘perfect’ retirement isn’t currently achievable. If that is the case, the best planners will be able to detail precisely how you need to alter your current spending patterns to change this. Furthermore, structuring your assets in a more tax-efficient manner and, of course, choosing a suitable portfolio to help you grow your wealth more effectively will both play an important role.

Failing this, you can remove different goals from your cashflow plan to see the impact it has on your financial picture. This process will ultimately help you prioritise your objectives and turn paradise into reality.

Re-thinking retirement planning

Retirement planning continues to have negative connotations. Pension funds are not exciting, and care-home funding is not something anyone wants to consider. The media portrays dynamic businesspeople as those who ‘never want to retire,’ as if retirement is only about reading books and drinking tea. People fear retirement and the loss of identity, lack of status and structure; above all, they fear the lack of money. It’s this fear that means people tend to bury their head in the sand instead of engaging with retirement planning. The reality is that Life2 is what you make it, and a solid financial framework will provide the opportunity to live it as you see fit.

‘Financial planning’ shouldn’t be dull, it should be a creative and rewarding process. If everyone approached it in this way, they might not leave it until the very last minute and we may start to address the ever-increasing issue of underfunded pensions in the UK.  Work now, earn, save and invest wisely, and then enjoy part two of your life, fully funded.

The earlier you determine your plan, the more likely it is we can help you take action to achieve your ideal retirement, rather than having to remove goals from your cashflow plan. Engage in the right way and you might even be able to reach Life2 earlier than you expected.

Challenge yourself

So, stop waiting and ask yourself our three questions. Give them some real thought and make a careful note of your answers. They should help you to make a tangible and motivating plan for your Life2. When you’re ready to start putting that plan into place, consider getting in touch. Achieving your life goals and realising your aspirations – certainly sounds like more fun than going to that dentist.

If you would like to discuss tax planning strategies or your pension arrangements contact us.

Saltus financial planning Ltd is authorised and regulated by the financial conduct authority. Information is correct to the best of our understanding as at the date of publication. Nothing within this article is intended as, or can be relied upon, as financial advice. Capital is at risk. You may get back less than you invested.