Center for a Secure Retirement
How to Set Goals — and Achieve Them — in Retirement

How to Set Goals — and Achieve Them — in Retirement

Throughout your career, goal-setting helped you stay focused, reach major milestones and feel a sense of personal achievement and satisfaction. But what about life after retirement?

Once you've transitioned from working to retirement, setting objectives for yourself may not seem as useful. But a life without goals can feel somewhat lackluster, which is one reason why many new retirees can feel a little adrift in their newly carefree lives. Here's what you need to know about how to set goals in retirement.

Why You Need Goals In Retirement

Having an objective to work toward is an important component of happiness. Studies have shown that having and making progress on meaningful goals is one key to developing and maintaining psychological well-being. Many retirees may treat retirement as the culmination of their goals, a mindset that can set them up for living without any meaningful objectives in retired life.

A life without something to work toward can quickly become boring or dissatisfying, so it's wise to start your retirement with some important and meaningful aims and objectives in mind.

Start by Knowing Yourself

It can be difficult to change your mindset about goals if you think of them only in relation to your previous career. How do you recreate the process of setting goals if you're no longer aiming for that corner office or becoming partner?

The first rule of retirement goal-setting is to know yourself. Your big dreams haven't gone away just because you've retired — and you may actually be more able to work toward those dreams now that you're no longer holding a standard job. So, start your goal-setting by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What do you find meaningful?
  • What brings you satisfaction?
  • What do you want?

When you've answered these questions, you can start getting into the specifics of goal-setting.

Get Creative

Determining which goals to set starts with your answers to the above questions, but it should also take into account other important aspects of your life, health and personality. For instance, you may realize you find travel meaningful and satisfying, so you set several travel-related goals for your post-retirement life. But even if fitness is not one of your answers to the above questions, it's worthwhile to set enjoyable exercise goals for yourself to help maintain your physical fitness and give yourself a gratifying challenge.

Some other potential goals that are well-suited to retirement life include:

Make Your Goals SMART

One proven way to achieve your goals is to use the SMART strategy, wherein you make your goal:

  • Specific. You know exactly what you plan to do.
  • Measurable. You'll know precisely when you've achieved your goal.
  • Attainable. Your goal is something that may be challenging, but you have the tools and abilities to succeed.
  • Relevant. Your goal is important to you.
  • Time-bound. You have a specific time frame for meeting your goal.

Using this strategy can help you create some structure and set reasonable goals that feel good to pursue.

Consider the Costs

In addition to following the SMART strategy, it's also important to plan for the costs of your goals. As you set each goal, figure out how much you might expect to spend on it. Then you can determine how you will afford it on your retirement income. This may mean saving up for more expensive goals by reducing your spending elsewhere or it may mean finding less expensive ways to fulfill your goals. But considering the costs as you set your goals will help you stay on track financially as you pursue your aims.

Life after retirement should still offer you opportunities to set and reach meaningful goals. Understanding what's most important to you can help you figure out how to set goals that will enhance your post-retirement life, and using the SMART strategy along with financial planning can help you meet them.

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