Briefcase Study: The One Word Retirement Plan

In Articles, Articles: Kansas City Office, Articles: Salt Lake City Office, Briefcase Studies, Fall 2022, SLC Fall 2022 by Scott Dougan

Working in the retirement planning realm for so long has given me the opportunity to talk with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people about what they hope to experience during retirement.

Discussions of money, time, and purpose lead to so many interesting insights about what a life well-lived might look like. A simple question like, “What would you like retirement to mean for you?” brings so many varied responses. 

Some common denominators in responses I hear center around hard work, sacrifice, constant learning, and time with family. But there’s some fun variety to consider as well. The choice of retirement vehicle people would like to drive ranges from the exchange of a bricks-and-mortar condo for that of a permanent-home-RV, to the purchase of a very fast Porsche. It just goes to show that everyone has their own speed for such an occasion.

One of the responses often includes the phrase: “Flexibility is the key with our retirement plan.” When I heard that on one particular occasion, I was struck by a question, what if everyone had to distill his or her desired retirement experience down to a single word, a one-word retirement plan? 

Let me ask: if you could choose just a single descriptor for what you’d like for the next 30 years of your life, what would it be?

For some, flexibility may be the word; for others, family. 

Here are words that may strike a chord with you:

  • Flexibility
  • Family
  • Faithfulness
  • Activity
  • Travel
  • Peacefulness
  • Contentment
  • Regret-Free (does a hyphen qualify it as one word?)
  • Growth
  • Healthy
  • Community
  • Volunteerism

While it may be that a single word just doesn’t encapsulate all that you’d like your retirement to be, do you see how this exercise can help to narrow down, or eliminate, what isn’t the best word for you? From this, you can establish goals and set decision frameworks around the experiences you’d like to create.

Perhaps it’s idealistic to think that a decades-long retirement can be built upon a single word, but the process of trying to arrive at that word is the most valuable benefit from this exercise. The process requires thought, conversation, and reflection. The process involves becoming clearer about who you are, what you’d like to become, and what might result if you actually met your lifestyle goals. Those seem to be worthy endeavors to me, but how about you? Can you choose a word upon which you’ll build your life?

Will you try?