TD Waterhouse Study: Life a mixed bag for retirees

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Financial giant TD Waterhouse is out with its first-ever survey examining Canadians' satisfaction in retirement. Bottom lines: (1) unexpected, tough adjustments to life after work; and (2) widespread realization that money provides the means to, not the ends of a happy retirement.

Among the findings, as reported in Canada's National Post:

- A quarter of retirees aged 55 to 70 found it hard to adapt to a life no longer defined by their work;


- Similarly, 59 percent said those planning to retire need to first understand what they want from retirement; they recommend envisioning a new day-to-day routine, and making necessary adjustments to lifestyle sooner than later

- Though 43% of retirees polled felt financially prepared, only 15% are now "completely living out their retirement dreams." Lack of non-financial planning, once again, appears to be the overriding factor.

- Twenty-six percent of respondents said they enjoy simple pleasures more than anything else in retirement. An equal percentage cited time with family and engaging in hobbies.

Taken together, I think these findings provide a sound top line guide to non-financial retirement planning:

(1) Get introspective, and get a handle on the things that give you true satisfaction;

(2) Think about how your life is most apt to change, and expect to feel in flux for a while;

(3) Minimize the disruptiveness of that flux by "previewing" your life in retirement before you stop working;

(4) Realize your money is not the destination, but the fuel to get you there; develop a realistic set of pursuits that your money can support over a sustained period in retirement;

(5) Manage your own expectations: know that your life in retirement may be somewhat different than how you currently envision it, and know that's OK.

Keep these in mind as you enter the five-year red zone prior to your planned retirement. Have fun as you go, and don't be afraid to adjust along the way.

Michael Burnham is CEO of My Next Phase, a consulting firm offering non-financial retirement planning products and services (www.mynextphase.com).

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