Retirement is no longer an automatic rite of passage. In the past, all you needed to do was live long enough to collect guaranteed lifetime income benefits from pensions and Social Security for what typically was a relatively short, predictable, postemployment lifetime. Those day are gone.

Among other things, today’s retirement hopefuls must prepare not only financially but emotionally for much longer life spans in retirement than their predecessors. The Three Retirement Lifestyle Determinants: What You Hope to Be, Do, and Have offers a focus for examining the essential elements that help shape your ultimate retirement experience throughout your “bonus” years. Giving careful thought to each of these three lifestyle elements will help define your retirement lifestyle goals and establish your funding and savings requirements.

During earning years, most people work to have stuff. Examples include material possessions, financial security for their family, a coveted career position, or a social status by a certain age. They imagine that once they have (possess) these things by doing what they do (working) for a living, they will be (identity) something more or different than what they currently are. For those who finally arrive at their social and possession goal destinations, a new, even more ambitious have-do-be sequence often emerges. Consequently, it is this never-ending cycle of “more” that often wears workers down before their time and motivates them to seek a more meaningful, less-stressful version of their lives—called “retirement.” Effectively planning for a major lifestyle change such as this will take more than just focusing on the monetary aspects (investments, insurance, and taxes) of retirement planning to succeed. In addition, a retirement lifestyle plan needs to be created.

Traditional financial planning seldom explores retirement lifestyle details beyond wanting to have a certain amount of money by a specific age, wanting to do activities such as golf and travel, and wanting to be retired from the have-do-be cycle of working in a rat race. Left unchallenged, these superficial responses are destined to yield something short of the desired result. To improve the quality and meaning of retirement living, we must first improve the quality and scope of planning to experience such a life.

To begin, let’s reverse the order of the have-do-be cycle to be-do-have. If working years are about having, retirement years are about being. Next, answer as genuinely as possible what you want to be (in line with affirmations and ideals rather than status), what you want to do (aspirations rather than job titles), and what you want to have (experiences rather than “stuff”). And provide these answers not just for one or two, but for all facets, of your retirement lifetime. The seven life facets of a balanced retirement lifestyle are self; life partner; family and friends; community; vocation and avocation; exploration; and something bigger.

An important retirement lifestyle question often looms in the minds of the preretired population: “Will I still be important within my circles of family, friends, and community during all my retirement years?” The answer to this question isn’t found in asset allocation or insurance planning but rather through deciding what you will be-do-have in each facet of your retirement lifestyle vision. Those who complete their retirement preparation homework in this area find that relevance doesn’t need to retire when they do! Enjoy!

To discover your retirement vison, go to and download the free e-book called You Vision.


Jim Collier, author of Retirement is Recess for Grown-Ups and the blog The Retired Retirement Planner, is the founder of RetirED LLC, a non-affiliated retire ready resource company located in Larkspur, Colorado.

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