The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it but that it is too low and we reach it. – Michelangelo
Excerpt from the new book: The Ultimate Money Moves for Women Over 50
The first thing we have to do is to get you to dream big! In order to understand why your money matters to you and what its purpose is, you have to start with your goals in mind and then work backward from there. Here are some of the big questions I ask my clients as they look ahead to retirement and their future:
• What things do you like to do (i.e. your hobbies)? Get specific. What moves your body and works your brain?
• Conceptualize other types of time, like volunteer work (coaching, tutoring, school, church, charities, etc.). How much time will that take and how often do you plan to do it?
• What do you do on a daily, monthly, and seasonal basis?
• A big thing women tend to forget about is the community they want around them as they age. Dream big about your social circle, community, and family. How much do those things cost? Where are they located? What will you be doing when you’re with them?
• How close are you going to live to your family (i.e., kids and grandkids)?
• How much do you want to be able to do with/for your kids and grandkids?
• How often will you travel? Think about the where, when, and why. Who would you be going with? What will you be doing, where will you be staying, and how will you get around while you’re there?
• What money will you truly spend on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis?
• What things can add value and give you purpose? What do you love to do? What are you going to do in this second life? What will give you value and worth and self-esteem?
• How often do you plan to go out and do things with friends and family members-and pay for it?
• What have you always wanted to do and said you’d “wait until I’m retired” to do it?
With these questions to get you started, here’s what I want you to do: Create a vision board for the person you would be with all the money in the world. What would your dreams be then? What goals would you achieve? This vision board can be on a piece of paper, a foam board from a hobby store, or in the notes section of your iPhone®, but I want you to map out your dreams and goals. And think BIG.
I have my dreams and goals in the notes section of my iPhone®, and they are labeled Discretionary Goals, Career Goals, Contribution Goals, and Personal Goals. You can use those categories to make your goal planning easier or modify them as you see fit. And FYI, even if you are nearing retirement, you should still have “career goals,” and I’ll explain why in a minute.
When writing out these goals and dreams, I want you to act like someone is footing the bill for you. Remember, no holding back. What would these goals look like if the money didn’t matter? That’s what I want to know and that’s what I want you to commit to. Let’s get started!
I always prefer to start goal planning with discretionary goals. This is usually the easiest category to dream about, and I have found that it’s the easiest for you to do. This is the fun stuff, the grown-up toys, and the more frivolous (are they though?) ideas and dreams. I have seen my clients dream about taking cruises, buying exotic cars or vacation homes, and taking trips to Europe and abroad. Do you want to do all of these things? If so, put them ALL down! Don’t hold back due to time, money, or mobility.
It’s also important when putting in these goals to mark them with a year that you intend to accomplish them. For example, I have never been on a cruise and it’s one of my discretionary goals. It was a goal I had set for 2020 until COVID-19 happened, so now the goal says “Cruise in 2023.” Every discretionary goal I have, like learning to scuba dive, has a year or deadline next to it. In the case of scuba diving, it says “within five years.”
Next, I want you to think about your career goals. I’m not sure if you realize this, but it’s a common theme among women that we are always “doing for others.” I have found that it’s especially important to women that we have value, even into and throughout retirement. Some of your career goals may cost you time or money, so it’s just as important to set those goals just like any other type of goal you have for your future.
There are so many different types of career goals for women, as you could be finishing your first career, or third. But do you still have a degree you want to finish? Do you want to achieve a PhD? Do you want to stop working for a company and start your own? Or start consulting on the side?
Some of the goals in my career category are to grow my business, buy more investment properties, and help more people. All of them have a timeframe next to them, even “help more people” which states “always.” I think a lot of women don’t realize that even though you may be full-fledged in a job or at the peak of your career, you should still set goals for yourself, even if it’s regarding awards, recognition, or increased compensation.
But what if you are a woman who has never worked? My question to you would be: Do you want to? In any capacity, even if it’s only a few days a week? If someone paid you for your services or the value you provide, would you love it? And regardless if you have worked or not, have you ever considered starting or finishing a degree, just for the sake of growing and learning? There are so many reputable online degrees now, even through elite schools like the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Massachusetts. Don’t hold back on your career dreams and goals! Just remember, this is all for a purpose, which we will get to later in the book.
The next category to dream big about is your contribution goals. To repeat, women typically live for helping others. That could manifest itself in many ways, depending on the woman. Many times, it’s focused on charitable doings. Sometimes it’s donating money, sometimes it’s volunteer work. It could be to benefit animals, children, or cancer patients. It’s best if you choose something that resonates with you personally and is something that you will be interested in spending both time and money on.
Under contribution goals, if the money didn’t matter and you had all the money in the world, what would your goals be? To start an endowment? To volunteer at Habitat for Humanity? To donate money to help children? All of your charitable goals go into this section, along with a timeframe. Under my contribution goals, I have “Support local charities – ongoing.” I have a lot of things that I like to do for charity, requiring both my time and money, and continuing this remains a personal goal of mine.
A lot of my clients are very active in charitable giving, and a few have even started scholarships at colleges as a remembrance of their loved ones. Do you want to donate to your college or sorority? Do you want to give money to the humane society or to disease research? All of these things should be in your contribution goals.
The last goal set should be your personal goals. This could be related to your relationships with your family, your physical fitness, learning new hobbies, or expanding existing skill sets. Some examples are fostering children, adding animals to your household, working on the house, gardening, or woodworking.
I really love books in all forms-audio, kindle, and physical-so one of my personal goals is to read more. Another personal goal of mine was to write a book (and here we are!).
Be bold and honest: What dream personal goals do you have? Do you want to continue to build on your physical fitness and mobility? Do you want to take pottery lessons or play golf or pickleball? Write it ALL down!
I have found as I have worked with women nearing retirement that they will mute their dreams and often don’t set goals. If they dream, it’s only within the money they think they will have, but I don’t want you to go small right now! Set your goals so high that you have to push to achieve them. This way, no matter what happens, you’ll at least land somewhere better and higher than you expected.
Once all of your dreams and goals have been established, then we can work on how to get there. How you achieve your dreams and goals is by knowing your real numbers, which we figure out once you’ve written everything down.
Now hear me out because I’m not trying to put you on a budget, or be like those financial people you have heard who say “no” to the occasional fancy coffee. I don’t want you to feel like you have to stay within the math that I present, but we need to know the numbers that would be necessary to achieve all of your dreams and goals. That means it’s not really a budget because we’re allowing you to be free to do all of the things you’ve ever wanted to do.
How do you get it done? We work through it. Together. Schedule a no-cost consultation with me today at www.suzannepowell.com.
I know this may feel and sound like a lot, but I encourage you to simply start with a piece of paper or the Notes app on your iPhone®, and work through what I have covered above. You don’t have to think of everything by yourself. That’s why I suggest you meet with a qualified fiduciary financial advisor, like myself, because I’ve been helping people like you for over 20 years and I’ve seen it all before. I can offer ideas, suggestions, and explanations around each scenario you’ve come up with, and even those that you haven’t considered before.
Many women talk about wanting to retire, but very few have conceptualized the how/what/when that will look like. When I sit with them and ask, “Here you are, but what’s next?” Many women don’t have an answer. They’re speechless. What they do know is that their mind and/or body is starting to break down because the days are passing by, yet they have no actual plan in place for the “what’s next” phase of their life.
The other honest reality is that a lot of women don’t have consistent hobbies. They’ve lived for their kids, husband/partner, and their work, so many women have no idea what they want to do with their free time. This is where I will often start throwing out the ideas I’ve already mentioned: church, volunteering, social events, or grandkids. It’s a lot to think about, especially if you’ve never thought about it before, but assuming that you will most likely live 20-30 MORE years after you officially retire… are you going to be doing what you REALLY want to do? And yes, you will likely live that long. According to an article from the U.S. Department of Labor Blog: “On average, a 65-year-old woman can expect to live to age 86. That’s 21 years in retirement, and nearly 3 years longer than men. This makes it extra important for women to build a sufficient retirement nest egg for themselves.”¹
The reason I want you to dream big and to set those goals is that we need to know what your ultimate dream retirement will cost. In order to frame it out, and come up with an accurate plan, I need to know what you’re going to spend. If you’ve never created a vision board or committed your goals to paper (or anywhere) before, you may be unsure of what retirement will look like for you. And I get it because mindful retirement planning wasn’t something that was even a thing a decade ago. But we are in the “live your best life” retirement movement now, and I firmly believe that you deserve to do the things that fill your heart with joy, make you feel valued, and most of all, connect you to the people and things that you love.
About the Author
Suzanne Powell, Financial Advisor and Author of Ultimate Money Moves for Women.
Suzanne is Vice-President of Meridian Wealth Management. Prior to joining Meridian, she was Vice President of investments for J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo. With a career spanning over 20 years, she has earned a reputation as an advisor who always answers your call.
Suzanne majored in business at Wayne State University in Michigan, having enrolled originally on a computer engineering scholarship. She earned her B.S. in Finance with a concentration in Financial Planning from Southern New Hampshire University. She currently serves on the board of Arbor Youth Services and is an active volunteer for causes related to children and animals.
Suzanne resides in Lexington with her husband Chris, their children, and their dogs. Suzanne and Chris work dually in two offices in Lexington, KY, and The Villages, FL, with the intention of living in Florida part-time once their children finish school.
Find Suzanne Powell on the Web: www.suzannepowell.com
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