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The If And Then Of Retirement Planning

Should you find yourself using the phrase "If …Then…" a lot when planning your retirement, you might not have your priorities aligned correctly. Think about it. Every time you use "If…Then…" you are prioritizing. So when we say: "If I get a bonus, then I'll fund my 401(k)." Or: "If my child gets a scholarship, then I'll fund my retirement account." There are many examples of how this delaying tactic is used. As we think this way, we are actually making it quite clear where retirement planning is, in terms of its importance to us.

Planning for retirement should not be part of the 'then'! You must prioritize this aspect of your life and put the requirement to do so in front of the material things we want now, even the children's education. Retiring successfully is about prioritizing the importance of it and putting it in front of everything else…or at least almost everything else. The trick is to put retirement right after the 'If' in your planning…not way down the line by throwing a 'then' in between.

A great place to start is awareness. As with all aspects of our lives, many times we get what we focus on. Take a little time on a Saturday morning and review how much time, energy, and emotion you are investing in your retirement. This exercise alone will help you to get started in moving retirement planning up the prioritization list to where it needs to be.

The second action to consider taking is do a mini retirement plan. You can do this on your own, with your financial advisor, or with my assistance. This is not one of those 40 page retirement plans that you pay a bunch of money for and then ignore, not implementing anything it recommends, perhaps not even reading the entire document.

A mini retirement plan should be a two-pager, summarizing where you are now with a short list of action steps you can start taking to get you on track. Retiring successfully can be as simple as being aware of where you are now, where you want to go, and then always taking the appropriate actions that get closer to where you want to be.

In summary, if you catch yourself using the "If…Then…" statement around retirement planning, make sure you are not getting your priorities out of line. "If…Then…" is great for computer programming or kitchen recipes. It is not for retirement planning.