A good start for any retirement planning or providing retirement help is to have a clear understanding of the meaning of retirement.
In many countries it has become a very hot (no pun intended for the riots in France and Greece!) topic as people have started to realize that their expectations are fading into history.
"An overnight parliament session turned into a shouting match as France's lower house neared a vote on a bill to raise the retirement age to 62."
"The government appeared all but certain to make France the latest European country to require workers to stay on the job longer because of a deficit-plagued pension system."
This is just the beginning. Anyone that thinks that 62 will be the end point, or that pensions will be kept at the previous amounts, or that this is unique to France or Europe, is living in denial.
So the first issue you need to confront in your retirement planning is,what does retirement mean to you?
Years ago the concept was easily understood. It was the day you stopped going to "the office". The day you reached the mandatory age and stopped having to "work". After 40 years in the same company you were now entitled to your adequate, defined benefit pension .. and even your surviving spouse would be financially secure.
Retirement was by tacit agreement between the employer and the employees. No one challenged the status quo and in most cases no retirement help was needed. This could be described as a "traditional" retirement.
However times have changed. Unconsidered political promises were made. People changed their jobs more frequently and cashed out their pensions prematurely. The returns projected by the financial institutions were not achieved. All these problems compounded by a lack of government foresight and planning.
Although some astute financial institutions did realize that pensions based on a defined benefit scheme were in many cases not going to be sustainable and convinced pension fund members to convert to a defined contribution basis, "so that you can manage your own funds".
For a large majority, retirement now is the involuntary termination of employment at the arbitrary, mandatory retirement age. In a way this is a"forced" retirement or as I call it "fortirement". If you find yourself in this state you'll probably need lots of retirement help.
Just an aside... isn't discrimination based on age unconstitutional?
To survive, or maintain some reasonable standard of living, many of these "fortirees" will now have to find some other source of income or support, or live degraded lifestyles. They'll be what was previously, confusingly named semi-retired. A state which conjures up in my mind a state of being semi-pregnant... are you or are you not?
So to clarify the concept of retirement it is probably more correct to see it as an achievement. It is a point, in one's life, when you decide that you have enough "money" to live your chosen lifestyle till the end of your days.
From then on work takes on a different meaning. It is not to earn money but out of choice for some other reason... self actualization, power, the challenge or fun. Although the introduction of the word "work" into the discussion creates its own confusion... which we'll ignore for now.
With this definition of retirement one can obviously achieve retirement at any age.
However it is not always a very easy calculation and it also introduces the interesting point that you could be retired today and in a year's time not retired. Either through not having enough money.
For example the stock market collapses or your business doesn't do as well as expected (reduced input) or you decide to live a far more expensive lifestyle (increased output). Life span expectancy may also change your decision.
The retirement help needed by this group may include a complete integrated financial and lifestyle model.
There is another group, which is a sub-set of "achieved" retirement, who have been named "nevertirees". They are the people who achieve their state of retirement but have no intention of ever stopping work. There is growing interest in this group which is characterized by people like Warren Buffet or Sam Walton of Walmart.
So retirement help will depend on how you define retirement. Patti Houlihan, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) who runs her own financial planning firm, sums it up so well: "Plan, plan, plan. Life will be so good if you do."