Goldilocks and the Three Retirements

What exactly do you want out of retirement? 

(I ask because when it comes to this topic most folks focus mostly on tools—pensions, 401(k) plans, Social Security, etc. Only a few think about goals.) 

Many answer by saying they want be able to sleep till 10 or not have to dress up every day. I suspect such responses are because many see retirement as the elimination of a negative (a job, an alarm clock or a boss) rather than the addition of a positive (time with grandchildren, travel, or volunteering).  

This is unfortunate, since studies suggest retiring to something, instead of from something, is what produces the most satisfaction.

I’m not saying tools (like annuities) don’t matter. They’re vital! But without clear goals, retirees can end up like that pilot who took off without a flight plan. She had no idea where she was going, but she made record time!

Over the years, I’ve seen at least four ways individuals experience retirement. See if you can identify with any of the following.

1. Survival. Like a drowning man, a retiree with inadequate income will cling to anything that feels like a life raft. Lifeguards know to approach struggling swimmers with great caution, lest they get pulled under themselves. A “drowning” retiree struggles to make ends meet and grasps at any solution. He’s likely to spend down his assets to zero, or fall prey to overly aggressive sales pitches that promise big returns for “no risk.” 

Survival mode isn’t anyone’s goal for retirement. It’s usually a consequence of inadequate planning. 

2. Leisure. This is the great American retirement dream. It’s the focal point of most Wall Street advertising. “Work with our firm and one day you’ll be taking beachfront walks at sunset with an impossibly good-looking person.”

When you are inundated by deadlines and dreary duties at work, this can seem irresistible. And maybe some people never tire of endless leisure. But from what I see, there is only so much travel and beachcombing retirees can do before they start getting restless. 

Will leisure be enough to satisfy you in retirement, or might you want something more?

3. Legacy. Others have a heart hunger to know their life has had meaning and purpose. For many, this is captured in the word “family.” Knowing their hard work and diligent planning will enable them to leave a financial legacy for their family is immensely satisfying. Perhaps this means money for grandchildren to attend a great college. Maybe it’s a tract of land on which their family will be able to hunt, fish and enjoy the great outdoors, long after they are gone. 

Others have different legacy desires. They want to support religious, educational, or scientific institutions that have missions they admire. Knowing their legacy gift will further that mission brings great joy to them during their golden years. 

How about it? Would leaving a legacy give deeper meaning, purpose, and satisfaction to your retirement years?

4. Goldilocks. Many people are like the girl in the well-known fairy tale. They don’t want something that’s “too this” or “too that.” They’re looking for a solution that fits them just right. 

When it comes to retirement, a strict leisure or legacy label may not fit you. (And I’m pretty sure you don’t want the “survival” option.) You need a goal that’s tailored to you.

If you’re thinking hard about retirement…good for you!

Just make sure you start with identifying what you really want (your goals). Then figure out what financial tools will get you there

A great way to help you sharpen your focus on what you really want out of retirement is to read my free e-book “How to Put Your Money Worries In Your Rear View Mirror – The Financial Freedom Roadmap.” I’ll be glad to get you a free copy if you’ll email at

Argent Advisors, Inc. is an SEC-registered investment adviser. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request. Please See Important Disclosure Information here.

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