When you take the time to ponder your retirement picture, how much do you see and how well-focused is the image?  A comprehensive retirement plan is, in a manner of speaking, a picture of your future — a future in which an alarm clock won’t likely figure very prominently, if at all, since you’ll no longer be going to work every day.

Having a fruitful retirement is the postscript to the “American Dream” — and the ideal is to live those proverbial golden years in comfort and calm, spending your time and money when and where you wish.  But in order for that to happen, you must carefully consider several retirement concerns and how much value you place on each before you can really see the full picture.

It all comes down to prioritization, but oftentimes there’s just so much to consider that the task becomes daunting.  To guide you down this crowded planning path, the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI), a notforprofit organization with a focus on insured retirement income, developed the “Retirement Expectations Checklist,” an extensive list of retirement concerns you should address when formulating your plan.  To give you the resources and perspective you need to start developing a clearer view of it all, we’ll discuss a few of these important considerations as well as how other baby boomers generally feel about them so you can measure your concerns against those of your peers.

The next step?  Take your list of prioritized retirement needs to your advisor to discuss what you must do to meet your expectations and paint your perfect — and complete — retirement picture.

1. Your Retirement Number

How much money will it take for you to retire?  If you haven’t started thinking about this all-important figure, like almost half (46 percent) of your boomer counterparts, now’s the time to do so.  Once you have a general idea of how much you’ll need to save in order to enjoy a comfortable retirement, talk to your advisor or planner about which strategies and tools you can use to make it happen.  And don’t forget to plan for a long postwork life — the chances that you or your spouse will survive at least to age 90 are pretty good, so plan with an eye toward never running out of income.

2. Investment Product Criteria

Combine long life expectancies with an unsteady stock market and an uneasy economy, and many Americans start craving safety.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with that.  More and more boomers are becoming aware of the importance of guarantees — in both principal protection and income generation.  In fact, 33 percent of boomers cite these guarantees as the most important criteria an investment or savings product must meet.  What criteria are most important to you?

3. Your Retirement Age

How long do you think you’ll want to — or have to — work before you retire?  When it comes to determining a retirement age, 39 percent of boomers don’t have a target age for when they will retire.  But before trying to decide how old you’ll be when you leave the workforce, it’s a good idea to assess your situation with a qualified planner, as he or she can work with you to develop a realistic goal.  If you already have an age in mind, your advisor will be able to tell you whether your goal can be achieved or if you’ll need to put a bit more — or maybe less — time into your career before you can put your feet up for good.

4. The Role of Annuities

A strong and popular way to save and accrue money for retirement, annuities are a prominent vehicle in many employer-sponsored pension plans and most of them come with a variety of guarantees.  Of course, the more safety you build into an annuity, the more expensive it will be, but having at least a portion of your nest egg in a guaranteed safe annuity product can bring tremendous peace of mind.  To wit, according to the “Retirement Expectations Checklist,” 92 percent of baby boomers who own annuities “believe they are doing a good job preparing financially for retirement.”  Ask your advisor if an annuity is right for you.

We’ve scratched just beyond the surface of what goes into crafting a beautiful retirement picture, and it should leave you with plenty to think about.  Whatever you do, don’t lose sight of that image!  Stay tuned for Part II of this article coming up on July 24; in it we’ll discuss a few more common concerns you should take into account before retiring.