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Questions to Help You Start Planning for Retirement

September 12th, 2018 | 2 min. read

By Jacob Schroeder


telescope_bigdipperAn important but often overlooked part of retirement planning is determining what retirement means to you. That may involve finding out what you most want to do in life. Just like a man named Herman Heyn.

One day in his 8th-grade science class, Herman Heyn’s teacher sketched the Big Dipper on a blackboard. She instructed the students to go outside that night and “Go find it.” That moment instilled a passion for astronomy in Mr. Heyn, as well as a desire to become a scientist when he grew up.

Unfortunately, learning disabilities prevented him from achieving his dream. As an adult he jumped from job to job. Then one fateful evening in Baltimore with a clear night sky overhead, Mr. Heyn decided to lug his telescope down to a street corner and invite people to check out the moon and distant planets. He also brought along his hat, which he placed upside down on the ground like a street performer.

That night, he made $10. The following night, he made $40. Besides the money, he gained something more valuable: his true calling. For the next 27 years, he earned a living as a street astronomer, and was given the affectionate title of “star hustler.”

The story of Mr. Heyn is one of many produced by StoryCorps, an organization whose mission is to “preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” The recorded stories are inspiring, harrowing and often entertaining.

Mr. Heyn’s story and the StoryCorps mission exemplifies an important part of planning for retirement: the act of discovery. That is, what do you want in retirement and how do you get there?

Of course, you should be saving as soon as possible, even if you have no idea what you want to do in retirement. But, without personal goals or dreams in mind, how can you know if you’re making the right financial decisions to live the retirement you want?

A neat feature of StoryCorps is its Question Generator, developed to help people develop and record their own histories. Many of the questions found here are also applicable to planning your retirement.

Here are some that we think will help you determine what you want in retirement:

  • What was the happiest moment of your life? The saddest?
  • Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
  • What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?
  • What are you proudest of?
  • If you could hold on to one memory from your life forever, what would that be?
  • How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?
  • How would you like to be remembered?
  • Do you have any regrets?
  • What does your future hold?
  • What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
  • What did you want to be when you grew up?
  • If you could do anything now, what would you do? Why?

Asking yourself personal questions is a crucial part of planning for retirement. When you can visualize your future, you’re better able to determine what specific financial steps you need to take to get there. How much you need to save. How many more years you need to work. Whether you need to save more. What investment strategy makes most sense for you.

The sooner you start and the more time you dedicated to planning your retirement, the less financial headaches and more likely you’ll achieve your financial goals.

The mark of a qualified financial adviser is his or her effort to ask questions. The primary goal of SmartVestor Pros at Advance Capital is to get to know our clients as well as possible so that we may best help them make the right financial decisions for their personal situation.

If you want to start planning for retirement, take some time to consider the questions above. Or, schedule a free consultation with one of our SmartVestor Pros who will help you create a roadmap toward your ideal retirement.