Think of Retirement as the Goal, Not the Vision

Once you get to retirement, what are you going to do? Asking yourself some key questions as you approach that milestone can help you shape your vision of what’s next.

A woman smiles as she rests her chin in her palm and looks into the distance, clearly thinking.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The idea of having a vision is often emphasized in the corporate world, with professional vision statements and self-development work that are often part of corporate coaching. But have you ever heard of having a “family vision”? What part does that play in your goal of retirement?

A vision is not the same as a goal. If you get in your car and drive until you’re out of gas, you will most certainly get somewhere. Getting in the car to reach a destination is a goal, but it lacks purpose. Spending quality time with important people is the purpose, and as long as it fulfills that purpose, you can have any number of planned stops.

A simple way to think about this is by considering Good to Great author Jim Collins’ definition of vision: Vision = Purpose + Values + Goals. The "goal" of retirement is a component of vision and just another milestone along the way.

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Retirement is not the end of the road, and like many of the big milestones in life, the real work begins after you’ve achieved it. Many young people have the goal of going to a great school, but once they’re there, they need to graduate. Getting married is a goal, but the real work is staying married. Having children might be your goal, but being the best parent you can be is the job of a lifetime.

What are the missing pieces of your vision?

If you aren’t sure what goals might come after retirement, a great place to start is by figuring out the missing pieces of your vision. What do you see when you reach retirement and look around? Ask yourself:

  • What are my personal and family values? Values create guardrails. They force you to prioritize, and they’re more powerful if you align your values with your partner’s, if you have one.
  • What is my purpose? In the context of a family, purpose serves as a guiding star, a compass that continually inspires and propels us forward. It is not something that can be achieved, but rather, a constant aspiration that shapes our actions, behaviors and decisions. If your purpose is your guiding star, your goals, like retirement, are mountains in the journey. Climb retirement mountain and ask your star where to go next.

Here’s an example of a family vision:

  • Purpose: Work hard with a kind heart
  • Values: Responsibility, entrepreneurship, presence, knowledge and adventure
  • Goals: Both partners retired

Early in life, retirement is theoretical, it’s down the road, but as we get closer to the goal of retirement and the likelihood that it’s going to happen, it’s time to start thinking about the next milestone. A defined purpose and clear values are extremely powerful tools in that exercise.

The ‘right way to retire’ is yours to define

Retirement is a gift, in many ways. If you’re lucky enough to be financially stable and in decent health, you’re entering a period of your life with more options and autonomy than you’ve probably ever had in your life. You can start a second career, be the best grandparent ever, travel the world, go back to school or bird-watch on your porch.

The vision is yours to define, and there is no right way to retire. But you’ll know it’s right for you if it aligns with who you truly are and where you want to go.

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This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Alex Kirby
CEO, Total Family Management (TFM)

Alex Kirby, Founder and CEO of Total Family Management, is a forward-thinking leader based in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area. He is a firm believer in the pivotal role that family plays in our lives. Under his guidance, TFM offers private virtual family coaching services and cutting-edge proprietary software designed to enhance family dynamics and social fitness. TFM is utilized by premier family offices, wealth firms and private families across the U.S. Throughout his career, Alex has been unwaveringly committed to people development, highlighting his dedication to empowering both individuals and families.