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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Retirement Success – the Importance of Journaling

We live in a fast-paced world with tremendous convenience and we love to get things done quickly. We rush around, moving from one project to the next with little or no time to think about what we have done and how we did it.

However, if your clients are to be successful in their retirement life, they need to take time to reflect on their actions to see what worked, what could have been done differently and plan for the next challenges. Journaling, the simple act of writing, is a way to slow down and help assess where they’ve been and where they are going.

Successful retirees all stress the importance of having some sort of written record; including documentation of the retirement plan, actions taken, thoughts, perspectives and observations.

Writing can also be an effective way to manage stress and enhance personal growth. It is easy to do and provides an opportunity to express dreams, purpose in life, memories and feelings.

Whether your client writes lists or keeps a journal – or both, encourage them to:

• Write out their retirement vision as it progresses.
• Write out their retirement plan, including goals, milestones and actions.
• Write about what worked or is working, and about what didn’t work.
• Write about successes and the challenges yet to come.
• Record reflections and ideas, thoughts and feelings on how their retirement is unfolding.

Writing is certainly a way to manage the details of a successful retirement – a tool to create the best retirement possible. But more than that, writing is a way to document a journey into a new way of living.

An example of a journal entry may be:

Currently, I am searching for a mentor to help finalize my retirement thinking. John and Robert are two people I know who I respect and are making a success of retirement. I can learn from both. This week I will contact John and Robert to explore their interest in becoming my retirement mentors.

Some of the things I need to address in the coming days and weeks are to evaluate my circle of friends and how I can enlarge my social circle. I need to make an appointment with my financial advisor to review my financial plan in relationship with my retirement vision.

I am feeling physically and emotionally well and am very much looking forward to the coming challenges and adventures retirement presents.

One area for improvement is to create an exercise regime. Next week I will be meeting with a physical trainer. Though I walk regularly, I believe a physical assessment and resulting exercise program will give me additional initiative to keep physically fit.

Besides encouraging clients to keep a journal, suggest that they review their entries. Have them note the progress or lack of progress they are making. Have them mark areas of success and the reasons for it as well as areas they may have missed and actions required.

Many clients who keep journals bring their journals when meeting with their financial advisor. It’s amazing how often conversations move off of money matters into broader retirement concerns. A client may wish to share parts of his or her writing with you – this information can add greatly to your understanding of the client’s retirement thinking and may highlight areas in which you can help.

As one successful financial advisor recently said to me, “By sharing their journal entries with me I get a good grasp of a client’s retirement progress including issues and questions they are facing. In many instances I can offer ideas and resources including suggesting actions others have tried and found useful.”

Richard (Rick) Atkinson, Founder and President of RA Retirement Advisors, is an expert in pre-retirement planning. He is author of the best-selling book, Don’t Just Retire – Live It, Love It! Rick facilitates workshops for clients of advisors and others. He is available for speaking engagements. Twitter: @dontjustretire.