Learn your values: The first step you should take to decide what to do in retirement

A senior couple planning for retirement by learning their values. A senior couple planning for retirement by learning their values
A senior couple planning for retirement by learning their values. A senior couple planning for retirement by learning their values

Retirement is different for everybody. But the first step you take in planning for it should be the same for almost everyone.

When I meet with clients, a lot of the conversations end up being about what or who people want to be during their retirement. The steps have been pretty clear to most folks up until now:

  1. Go to college.
  2. Get a job.
  3. Start a family.
  4. Raise great kids.
  5. Move up corporate ladder.
  6. Retire.
  7. Now what?

That last step’s a doozy.

Your involvement in all the roles you’ve had until now can change or thin out or get spread thick depending on what you want to do in step 7.

It took me until age 49 to figure out what I’m about to share with you, and few of my clients planning for retirement have figured it out, either. Until I bring it up.

The one thing to figure out before retirement

To decide what you want to do with the rest of your life, you need to better understand who you are.

Sound hokey?

I thought so, too.

When some coaches I use pointed me down this road, I went along with it, but I wasn’t sold on the idea…

Until I got the results. Holy cow!

The results gave me so much clarity and have helped me make tough decisions ever since.

To understand who you are and what you’ll want in retirement, you should chart out your top 10 values.

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My top 10 values

I was surprised by a lot of the values that I hold dear. As you figure out your values, you may find, like I did, that unhappiness or discontent probably stems from living your life out of congruence with your values.

For me, I found my top life values to be:

  1. Relationship with God.
  2. Quality relationships.
  3. Adventure.
  4. Service
  5. Continuous improvement.
  6. Fitness.
  7. Laughter.
  8. Positive attitude.
  9. Freedom.
  10. Bravery.

Now I know that when I retire, each of these values still needs be part of my life. For instance, I know I’ll probably retire later than most because my career as a financial planner is how I serve people. And when I do retire, I’ll still find ways to help people the way I always have.

Clarity for your retirement

As a young man, I didn’t have this list to give me clarity about what I should do with my life. But I thought I had it figured out.

I came out of the college gates strong and made tons of money early on. I got myself a BMW convertible as a status symbol and ran around Dallas with the top rolled down thinking I was “all that.”

But I just wasn’t happy. And I know now it’s because I wasn’t living my values. I wasn’t living a life, I was living a lie.

Don’t fall into that trap as a retiree.

Retirement is a bigger change emotionally and psychologically than you can appreciate on an intellectual level. Trust me, I’ve had a lot of clients make the transition, and no one is fully prepared.

But I know that having the clarity of knowing your values in depth will help you be more prepared.

The guardrails of life as you’ve known it are about to come down. Identify your values—especially as a couple—to build a foundation for your ideal retirement.

Charting your values for retirement

I know retirement seems overwhelming, and it may seem overwhelming to chart your values, too. Don’t worry, I’ve got a good starting point for you.

Click here to download a free values worksheet from my business coaches, the Rusty Lion Academy.

After settling on and ranking your top 10 values through the process of elimination, do a deep dive on each of your values to figure out why they’re important to you. I figured out fitness is so important to me because I know it helps me mentally as much as anything.

You might be surprised at why your values drive you and what order you put them in. I was.

Once you’ve identified and understood your values, frame them and display them somewhere you’ll see often. Your values will be a reference point you return to often as you’re charting your ideal retirement. If you’re out of alignment on any of your values, your retirement will be lacking.

Finally, share your values with people you care about. You should be synced up with your spouse on this; their values will need to be met as well if your ideal retirement is to take root. I shared mine with my wife, my children, and some good friends who I knew could help keep me in alignment.

Let them know you’re giving them a hall pass to call you out on any of your values if you’re not living in alignment. That will give you accountability partners to get more done.

Retire with values

In short, you need to know your values to retire well.

To recap, you should:

  1. Download the values worksheet.
  2. Dive deep to understand the values you’ve chosen.
  3. Frame your values and display them prominently as a constant reminder.
  4. Share them with people who care enough to help you stick to them.
  5. Rock retirement.

Weird to think you made it this far without understanding your values so explicitly, isn’t it? I’ve found knowing my values means a lot and brings a lot more peace. I know understanding your values will improve your retirement, too.

Question of the week

In doing this exercise, did you discover any values that could change the trajectory of your retirement?

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