No matter your age — how to plan for retirement is likely a topic that you have pondered and done at least little something about. You may have saved some money, thought about the best locale for golf (or whatever hobby you will have), figured out when to start Social Security, talked with a financial advisor or wrote down a financial plan. While none of these ideas about retirement planning are wrong, there is an answer that is probably more right.
Perhaps the best way to plan for retirement is to visualize your future — really think about the details of who you will be, where and why. Being able to imagine now who you will be in the future and what your needs and desires will be at that time is perhaps the most important aspect of planning.
In psychological circles the idea of being able to imagine yourself in the future is called “self-continuity.” It is a concept that has been around since at least the ancient Greeks and scientists have discovered that you are better off if you can somehow connect to this future self.
It turns out that visualizing your future does a couple of important things with regards to retirement planning. By connecting with your future self:
- You can create a better retirement plan — one that suits what you will want to be doing.
- Helps insure that you do create a plan and that you do the things you need to do now — saving money, keeping healthy and maintaining friends — so that you will have a better future.
Research suggests that our brains naturally process our future selves as strangers. And, let’s face it – you are unlikely to save for the retirement expenses or care for the body of a stranger. It turns out that by visualizing yourself in the future and “getting to know” that person, you are more likely to take steps now to take care of this future version of yourself.
Whether you are 40 and hoping to retire in 30 years or if you are 67 and hoping you have enough resources to fund the rest of your life, here are 7 ways to visualize your future so that you can create and achieve a really effective plan:
1) Imagine Yourself Older and Get Detailed
To increase the likelihood that you prepare for your future, researchers suggest that you imagine yourself in the body of one of your own grandparents or great grandparents. Think about what this old version of yourself wants to do and where you are living. Consider this person paying the bills in retirement. By visualizing yourself in retirement – and writing down these thoughts to make them more real – you may be far more likely to adequately prepare for being this older person.
The more detail you can visualize about your future self, the better job you will do planning and preparing for that person.
Visualize answers to the following questions for different ages in your future:
- How you spend your time. Are you working in any way? What are your hobbies? How active are you?
- What is your daily routine?
- Who do you see on a regular basis? What are your relationships with them?
- What might have gone wrong in your life? (Can you do anything now to prevent that from happening?)
- Are you healthy? What are you doing to maintain health?
- How do you dress?
- Where do you live? What city? What kind of home?
- Consider how your current and past aspirations connect to your future self
Studies suggest that retirement savings and other positive behaviors increase when the saver can understand that they are saving for an actual person (themselves) with real needs in the future.
2) Think When Not If
If you want to know how to plan for retirement, you might want to make sure that you are using the word “when” and not “if” when talking about your goals and plans. For example, instead of saying “if I save enough to retire at 62,” change your way of thinking to be “when I save enough to retire at 62.”
Saying “when” not “if” is a little mind trick that will help you create a plan that will enable you to achieve your goals.
3) Write a Letter to Your Future Self
It can be a little mind bending, but people who have done it say that it is incredibly powerful to write a letter to their future self. You can talk about your life right now and how you hope it will grow and change by the time you reach the age of the person you are writing. So, if you are 63 now, you might want to write to your 75 year old self. As you think about who that future person is and ponder what you want to say to them, you’ll really be able to connect to your future in profound ways.
There is even a non profit service that enables you to email your future self — FutureMe.org. You write the email now and they will deliver it to you on the future date you request.
4) Consider How Big and Small Choices Now Determine Options for Your Future
Every choice you make right now has ramifications for your future. You have probably heard the analogy about throwing a tiny pebble into a pond and watching how the small disturbance to the water can create a massive concentric wave that reaches every shore.
Your big and small choices right now are like that for your future self.
- What you eat and how you exercise and other health choices will certainly impact who you are in 20 years.
- How you spend time now — working long hours, watching TV, developing hobbies — lay the groundwork for your future.
- Who you spend time with and how much effort you put into those relationships with family and friends can determine whether or not they will be a meaningful part of your future self’s life.
- How much you spend and how much you save now will limit or expand what options you have in the future.
5) Ask Yourself How Something Impacts Your Future Self
For everything you do, it may be worthwhile to consider whether it has a long term benefit. If it doesn’t positively effect both your current and future selves, is it really worth doing?
This doesn’t mean that you are foregoing pleasure. You are just having a longer term view and choosing things that both make you happy now as well as into the future. If you want to know how to plan for retirement, you need to start thinking about how all big and small choices you make now will impact your life when you are retired.
6) Create a Vision Board
Popularized by the book, “The Secret,” vision boards have become a trendy way help you imagine your future. A vision board is a collage of images and words of things that inspire and motivate you. Ideally the things you put on the board make you feel something. You can clip images from magazines and have a vision board on your refrigerator or use pinterest to create a digital vision board.
Some may feel that this idea is a little too “new agey” but science really does back up the idea that visualization works.
7) Use a Really Detailed Retirement Planning Calculator
The NewRetirement retirement planning calculator has received a lot of praise for being a highly detailed tool. Users love that the system because it asks many questions that they have not considered. Because this calculator helps you imagine your future, it is easily one of the the best ways to plan for retirement.
Here is what a few recent users have to say:
I find it to be a very comprehensive site that asks the type of questions that will make one think. We have grown accustomed to getting everything too quickly and have become a “got to have it now” society. This is a dangerous way of thinking. We live in the now and not really thinking about the future until we hit our 50’s. This site can help people at least start to rethink on how to save their money. Thank you.”Fairfax, VA – January 1, 2018
Easy to use. Comprehensive planner includes much more info than others; gives a better retirement picture.
Herndon, VA – November 20, 2017
Yours is one of the most comprehensive sites I have used and it continues to improve. You provide a wealth of information and provide various inexpensive options to obtain advice. It has been highly recommended by various publications and testimonials.
Warsaw, IN – November 14, 2017
The details of the information the site asks about and the ease with which one can do “What If” analysis … I have yet to see a tool as comprehensive and useful as yours in retirement financial planning and forecasting! So glad I accidently stumbled upon it.
Madison, WI – June 24, 2017
Log in or create an account and start visualizing your future today by creating a solid retirement financial plan. Or, share your vision for your future in the comments section below!
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