Creating a Picture for Retirement

While I have many more years to work, I am closer to retirement than further away from it.  I have been fascinated to learn friends’ and clients’ choices for their retirement lifestyle. I have been quizzing people about their life choices for the “early retirement” part of their life. Their choices speak to what is most important to them. I am particularly excited to learn about how these priorities come to the forefront when people enter a stage of life with more time, relatively good health, and savings to focus on their goals. Recently, I took it a step further and visited three friends who have chosen different retirement lifestyles in warm locations. After all the research, I have found three key components to the retirement stories – discernment of what is most important, creating a lifestyle in early retirement that facilitates those objectives, and planning to make those goals a reality.  

Discerning What is Most Important to You and How that Might Look in Retirement

For some the priority is family.  They have chosen to live near their children and grandchildren to enjoy the easy frequent interaction that living nearby affords. This may be in the community where they raised their family or may mean a move to where their children have chosen to settle. While a vacation may be fun, they would not trade where they are.

Some friends are invested in the local community they have worked to build over many years and remain active in it. Their joy comes from having more time to invest in the community they have enjoyed for so many years.

Traveling to new places has been the retirement choice of some. They plan and take periodic “bucket list” vacations to satisfy their desires. Some have gone as far as choosing to live in an exotic location for all or part of the year. Photos from friends who have explored places like the Galapagos Islands or Europe have piqued my interest.

A physically active lifestyle is a priority for some. They want to live where weather does not restrict them getting out and exercising, and maybe have exercise options right out their front door. While many of my friends have chosen to move to Florida, we know some that have mountain ski homes too. I certainly enjoyed visiting our friends who live in a country club community that have a pool and tennis courts steps from their front door, and a community of people who were happy to join them in a game.

My culture-loving friends enjoy an in-town location with easy access to local theatre, cultural events, restaurants, and farmers markets.  Having those cultural opportunities at their doorstep satisfies that thirst for experiences in their lives.

Planning for that Retirement Lifestyle

After understanding the options that prioritize what is most important, how do we plan for it?

Taking stock of savings is my first step. What has been saved thus far?  How much can one reasonably expect to save each year? As college tuition bills become a thing of the past, deciding if those marginal dollars are best redirected toward that retirement goal or to other short or medium-term goals one has is next. Taking stock of the balance between enjoying today and a plan for the future is important. Having a better idea of what retirement options might cost and what the tradeoffs are will help make intentional savings decisions.

Gaining an understanding of costs will aid in decision making. If you choose to focus on local family and community, then you are aware of the basic cost of living in your area. I have discovered that while many think retirement will be a less expensive lifestyle, it may not be as one might have thought.

Fun can cost. With more time and opportunity to meet friends for lunch or a round of golf, entertainment expenses can add up over the course of a year.  One might have time to attend the theatre, but how often can you go without breaking your budget?

Understanding tradeoffs within a broader goal will help define the plan for the future. Travel choices are an easy way to see the tradeoffs that can be made to match goals with your retirement saving. Driving, flying, simple or luxury accommodations, smaller trips or exotic excursions are all choices to match with your plan.  The same can be said for choosing where you live in retirement. Where you live may make it easier and maybe even cheaper to meet your goals for an active lifestyle or cultural experiences.

Having a clearer picture of retirement goals and their costs, alongside my other priorities makes it easier to make my saving and spending decisions with intentionality.


First, I have time. Retirement is still years away and I am not ready to retire. I have time to refine what is important to me, how I might maximize my circumstances to achieve my goals and I have time to work toward those goals. I have time to turn a fuzzy picture of retirement into a vivid one.  I need to enjoy today too.

Second, the future is unknown - I don’t know what my family situation and health situation will look like when I retire. Maybe there will be grandchildren or maybe not.  Whatever picture I have today will likely morph significantly over the next several years.

Third, I can change my mind on what I want now, and I can change my mind in retirement.  It will be a process not a one-time decision. I have seen friends buy a vacation home, downsize their main home, then decide they want the vacation home to become their year-round place.  They proved that it is okay to change your mind or find a better balance.  A decision is not set in stone.

Lastly, I can plan and prioritize saving to achieve what I consider my top choices. I have options. I can balance my priorities to allow myself to enjoy today and dream for the future.  The better I can define my goals, the easier it is to make intentional choices, plan for the future, and enjoy it.


The vivid picture I now have in my head after exploring retirement options has calmed me about the scary unknown of the next step in life.  It has also made me appreciate today and make sure I enjoy now as well. Ultimately it has given me the peace of mind to plan for the future with a balance and focus for all our goals for now, for early retirement, and for care in the later stages of life. We at Moller Wealth Partners are here to walk alongside you as you craft your plan for the future.

Reach out today. This could be the start of a great relationship.

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