Retirement Planning in Your 50’s: Bringing Your Vision Into Focus

Is it too early to envision retirement when you’re in your 50’s? Many of us “50-somethings” would say yes- we’re still deep in the middle of career and family building, and retirement may be just a vague concept in our minds. Sure, we know retirement is in our future, and we save and build our nest egg with that in mind. But the idea of what retirement will actually be like may be unclear.

You can greatly enhance your planning by bringing that fuzzy image of retirement more into focus now. With that clarity you can capitalize on the benefit of time, and make meaningful changes to shape the course of your future life. Here are five areas to focus on as you envision your retirement:


If you think answering the “Why” of retirement is a waste of time, (“Because I’ll be too old to keep working, duh!”), think again. A question to ponder is, Why should this part of life be worth looking forward to? This is a deep question, and you may find there are more questions than answers at first. But it will shape everything else, so it’s worth considering.

To answer the “Why” question, think about what your priorities will be when the nest is empty and the career drive fades. What is fulfilling (or unfulfilling) about life now, and what will be fulfilling when everything changes? Am I wired for reclining in a lawn chair full time, or will too much unstructured time drive me (and my spouse) up the wall?


Insight about the “Why” of your vision will shape the “What”. What will I spend time and energy doing in retirement? This isn’t just about filling up your time. It’s about your finances too- some activities can produce income, and some can cost a lot of money.

As financial planners in San Diego, we’ve worked with many near-retirees to plan for the activities they really want to do. Many times there is a mix of several things: Consulting, volunteering, activism, hobbies, helping family, and travel to name a few.


This may seem like the easiest one, but it’s not as simple as it used to be when seemingly everyone hit the retirement switch on their 65th birthday. Nowadays, retirement can be in several phases. Learning a new skill, entering a new career, opening a new business or taking on a new role can all be phases that last a certain number of years.

And of course, “When” also means how long retirement should be expected to last. Planning for longevity should be a primary consideration in retirement, and this can affect your income plan for earlier in retirement too. For example, decisions about when to start Social Security, Pension options, deferred compensation and business succession options can all affect how much income you can count on over a long life. And decisions about how to distribute your investments, 401(k) and IRAs will affect this as well.


Where you will live in retirement? This decision can have a lot of planning repercussions. What state will you live in, and what house will you live in (or what houses for that matter?)

The house your family lives in now may have a lot of equity in it. You may also have a mortgage on it. Both of these can be important to the retirement picture. And as with any real asset, there are risk management, tax, and estate factors to consider.

Some people envision buying their dream home in retirement or buying a second home closer to family or in a location they really like. This is a big decision that should be made only after weighing all the considerations discussed above.


The question here is, “How will I pay for retirement?” Answering those what, where, when and why questions will help. In our practice, we create a cash flow projection and look at all the sources of income, all the likely expenses, and the assets that will be available to draw from in retirement. We see if it looks sustainable over a long life. If it doesn’t look sustainable, we go back to the what, when, where questions and talk about possible adjustments.

As wealth managers, the advisors of Blankinship & Foster help people plan for future events such as retirement by asking important questions such as these. They may not always be easy to answer, but we feel they should be answered in order to make smart decisions that will affect the future. If you would like to learn more about how we can bring clarity to your financial vision, please contact us.

About Jon Beyrer

Jon Beyrer, EA, CFP® is a partner of Blankinship & Foster LLC and is the firm’s Chief Compliance Officer. As a lead advisor, he focuses on helping families achieve their goals with sound wealth planning. In the community, Jon serves on several boards and is co-founder of the Professional Alliance for Children, a legal/financial charity for families of ill children. He has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Journal of Financial Planning. Jon lives in San Diego with his family.

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