Your Guide to Creating a Retirement Plan

A DIY Guide To Creating A Retirement Plan

Retirement is your time to finally do all the things you’ve dreamed about. Capture your thoughts and make your dreams come true with an easy to complete retirement plan.

After a lifetime of meeting the needs of your family and your work, now it’s time to put yourself first. Start by creating a plan for a meaningful and joyful retirement life. Set a handful of realistic goals and action steps to achieve your goals. Organize your thoughts and get your retirement lifestyle on the road to success.

As much as this may feel like a work project, keep in mind that things that are worth having generally take effort and persistence.  If you want your retired life to feel meaningful and worthwhile, you need to put some thought into planning it.

Like so many areas in life, if you have a plan, your chances for success are greatly improved. Your retirement happiness increases if you invest the time to outline goals and action steps.

Let’s get started on creating a very simple retirement plan that you will use.

Here’s a list of all the areas of your life that will ultimately be affected by your decision to retire:

Attitude Life Meaning
Finances Location
Health & Wellness Relationships
Leisure Work or Vocation

First we’ll look at all these life areas and consider what they’ll mean for you in retirement. You’ll set goals for each area and then create several action steps to move you forward.

Chances are, you’ve already been thinking about how you’d like your retired life to look, but haven’t taken the time to actually write anything down.  Go ahead and make your notes on the blank retirement plan template (Word document download). A completed sample retirement plan is also included to help if you get stuck.  Remember: keep things simple.  This process is meant to jumpstart your thinking process and get you moving forward.


Think about the following eight life areas. How will each of these define your retired life?  What changes can you make within your current lifestyle to create contentment, meaning, security or happiness in these individual areas? Identify specific goals for each life area. If you’re feeling stuck, think about how you want to feel in each of these life areas. It’s not enough to say you want to be “happy” in retirement. Dig deeper and figure out what defines happiness for you.

As you consider each of these eight areas, write down at least one goal for each one. For additional guidance, take a look at the sample retirement plan that’s included. I created this for myself and you’ll note that it’s short and very simple.

Go ahead and be more detailed if you’d like. Just keep in mind that if you make this planning exercise too complicated, you may lose your motivation to get started on it.  Retirement itself represents so many changes and it’s just not possible to look ahead and identify all that you want to make in one sitting. Let this process evolve for you over time.

Remember your goal is to just get started!

1. Attitude

What you think about retirement will have a real impact on how successful and enjoyable your retirement lifestyle will be. If you are excited to begin it, you’ll look at retirement in a positive light. How do you view your retirement years?  Are you looking at retirement something to avoid or something to embrace?  What should you be mindful of when considering your overall retirement attitude?  How does this quote relate to your thoughts about retirement?

“I’m gonna make the rest of my life, the best of my life.”

2. Finances

Knowledge about your finances is critical for supporting your retirement plans. Your confidence about your financial position and overall knowledge about financial needs creates peace of mind. How comfortable are you with your financial situation? Are you confident that you’re prepared to retire? What financial information do you need from others to fill in your knowledge gaps?

3. Health and Wellness

Your overall health is a subjective assessment that only you know the answer to.    Physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social factors all impact your health. Wellness is a relationship between mind, body and spirit.  What’s the status of your health? What can you do to do improve your health? What mind body, spirit connections do you have?  How do these affect your wellness? How can you increase your sense of wellness? Does this quote express how you feel about your overall health and wellness?

“I’m retired, not expired.”

4. Leisure

Leisure is finding the right activities in just the right amount to balance the other areas of your life.  Its purpose is to renew and rejuvenate you. What special interests do you want to pursue? What have you not had time for because work and family were priorities? What are you interested in doing just for fun? You may want to feel “productive” in retirement, so think about activities that will give you enough of a break to sustain the level of productivity that you are aiming for.

Keep in mind that a meaningful retirement is not about living a life of leisure 24×7. Your overall retirement happiness depends on you having a purposeful life and contributing to a greater good. Just as leisure time represented a respite from the day-to-day activities of your work life, it also offers this in retirement.

5. Life Meaning

Your passion is where you find your life meaning.  Passion describes your intense attachment to a cause, to an activity, to an idea or to a vocation.  What do you spend time talking about or looking up online? What do others say you are good at? How could you use these skills to benefit a cause that interests you?

Retirement offers you the gift of time to explore new ideas and test out activities. Your passions may change over time so don’t feel as though you have to stick with one specific interest. The journey to explore what interests you is just as valuable as whatever you choose to do with your passion.  Think about what this quote means for you:

“Retirement is a journey, not a destination.”

6. Location

It’s more than a zip code. Location is your sense of home.  It’s based on physical surroundings, a sense of family, or even social communities. What about your home or town is important to you? What makes a place feel like home? How close do you want to live to your family?

Are nearby airports, medical facilities, or recreational opportunities important to you? Do you want to downsize in retirement? How would this change your current lifestyle?

All of these considerations become a factor in your decision about where you might want live in retirement. After thinking it through, you may decide that where you are now is just perfect. Your goal may be more about adjusting your surroundings and less about moving.

7. Relationships

Your family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances and people you’ve yet to meet all have a relationship of some kind with you. These relationships impact your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. How connected do you want to be in retirement? Who do you want in your life?  What new connections do you want to make?

Do you want to join new groups or make connections with others who share the same interests or passions as you do? What will your spouse/partner do when you retire? Will you want to spend more time together or should you both look for individual interests? How does this quote relate to your expected life in retirement?

“I married you for better or worse, but not for lunch.”

8. Work or Vocation

Retirement becomes the time to define yourself more by who you are and less by what you do.  Connect your skills to your values and passions to find a job (paid or volunteer) that is meaningful to you. What will you do to define yourself? Do you have a passion to explore or a new career to dive into?

A vocation describes a “strong suitability for a particular career or occupation.” Have you always wanted to pursue a totally new interest? If so, how would you get started? How would your current skills and abilities apply? Do you need training or education?

You may be interested in blending volunteer work with a paid job. In addition, you may want to continue with your current career but reduce your hours.  What will become your new “job” and how will you integrate that into your retired life?

It’s time to move forward and seriously think about how you’ll get all this done.


Go back through your list and create action steps for each of the goals in your life areas. Keep the action steps simple and reasonable. Be honest with yourself. If you make these too complex or difficult, you’ll never begin.

Now that you’ve got 20 or so steps to begin planning your retired life, look at the whole picture and think realistically about where you should start. Don’t try to set start dates for everything at first. Select 10 to start with and begin there.  The point is to begin and build momentum for further planning. It’s not to create a project that overwhelms you before you even begin.

If you are newly retired, go ahead and set start dates for the areas that are calling to you right now. If you are planning ahead for retirement, you may have some areas that need more attention before you can retire, so work on those first. However you decide to start, congratulate yourself on beginning your plan. Each goal that you set and each action step that you take brings you closer to a more successful and fulfilling retirement.


How did you do?  Give yourself a few months and check back in.  Now that you’ve had a chance to set goals and take action steps, what do you want to achieve next? What needs to be added to your retirement plan?

Are you ready to begin exploring some new areas or considering more changes?  Again, don’t let the process overwhelm you. Just remember to start take small steps and keep moving forward. Change action steps or dates as needed based on what feels right for you.  Review, repeat AND revisit this plan for your dream retirement.

For our readers that would like to see a completed sample plan, Deborah has posted hers here. For readers looking for a blank template to start their own process, please find it here.

Looking for more resources on achieving your best retirement? Be sure to browse our Retirement Success Series, take our retirement personality quiz, read about the retirement coaching process, or contact us below for a free consultation.


For more information on handling change in retirement and Retirement Coaching, contact Deborah Williams.

Call: 503-317-4059

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