Before starting a business, entering into marriage or joining your friend in an intramural league – we all commit to a mission statement. It could be as cheesy as ‘every goal gets a beer’ or ‘I vow to love unconditionally.’ These statements are what we come to live by, they define our life around that experience.

Retirement, and the associated pursuit of it, should be defined the same way. We should create a motto, live by it, and let that define the process. Similar to creating a monthly budget and living within the means of the budget, a retirement mission statement works the same way. A mission statement almost works like an itinerary, something to look forward to, rules to live by now to ensure that future comes to fruition and then define that future.

Let’s take a look at a few key components of a great retirement mission statement.

1) Define how we live today

To reach a determined end goal, we must define how we are going to get there. The best example of this comes from JRR Tolkien’s book of adventure, The Hobbit. With a destination on the horizon, Bilbo sets off. Where he will go exactly? What obstacles he will encounter along the way? Bilbo was told he would be a burglar and so he became one. It was the motto he lived by for his journey – he defined himself as a burglar and became such. Define how you life your life today, how that plays into your retirement planning and both shall come true. Additionally, he wished to complete his task to return to his simple life in the Shire (his hometown). His mission regulated his journey and in effect his life.

2) Set benchmarks of retirement success

We all define success differently. Your successful version of retirement may be the ability to golf 3 days a week, while mine may be the ability to swim in the Caribbean every morning. By defining our own individual terms of success, we can plot a journey on how to get there. Others may desire to have the freedom to visit the family on a regular basis or others may merely like to keep the simple life they have attained. Understanding these benchmarks and in effect defining them allows them to be attained in the future. See the trend here, component 1 and component 2 are inexplicably linked to each other!

3) Describe the vision of a retirement fulfilled

The first draft of your mission statement will likely not be your last. Though to complete the journey we must first start it, so begin the journey with a mission statement. A vision of the future should be enticing, exciting, but I caution you to remain realistic. Does it involve going skiing every week during the winter? Visiting the grandkids once a month? Those are likely realistic expectations. Flying around in a private jet to every far flung destination is not realistic and will only serve to make true goal setting a proper vision setting difficult. Define what the future looks like, what the expenses will likely be (house, condo and what part of the country), so on and so forth.

Some examples to get you on the right path are outlined below:

I am passionate about living a simple life. When retirement comes, I plan to keep my one bedroom condo and spend my time volunteering locally. My goal will be to visit my extended family once a year during the summer months.

We have always been a family oriented couple. Retirement will merely give us the freedom to spend more time with our family. We plan to spend half our time traveling and playing the nanny role with our grandchildren. In this process we will downsize our large home to a condo in Florida.

I have always enjoyed my professional work. As a result, I plan to continue to work in a part time capacity to keep my mind sharp and body healthy. My part time work will be offset by regular vacations to complete my bucket list.

As you see, a mission statement should embody some level of financial responsibility – clear expectations of the financial commitment while at the same time highlighting key hopes for the future. By balancing the two, both your retirement plan and retirement in actuality will be an easier process.

Photo by Jonathan Lin