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Are you familiar with that picture-perfect image of retirement? You know the one: Extended vacations, daily activities and endless time to do what you want? While it's all possible, it's not the norm–and striving for this level of perfection could hold you back from practical retirement planning.

The truth is, thoughtful, thorough retirement planning is essential if you want to create a retirement that fits your ideals and priorities. And with a vision that is unrealistic or too “perfect”, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment.

So how do you properly prepare for retirement? While financial preparation is probably the first thought that comes to mind, it’s not the only consideration. There are other factors that contribute to a smooth transition into retirement.

Aim for a complete picture over a perfect picture

Here are three steps to full-picture retirement planning:

1. Bring your money into focus

While your finances don’t make up your complete retirement picture, they do play a major role, so it’s worth starting here. But planning out your retirement finances isn’t just about what you have tucked away in your RRSP or savings account. Consider the following steps as well:

Review your estate plan. Is your Will and Power of Attorney up-to-date? As you transition into retirement, this is a good time to review these important documents.

Understand your retirement income sources. Your RRSP might be the cornerstone of your savings strategy, but your retirement income doesn’t have to come from just your savings. Government retirement benefits such as CPP/QPP and OAS, for instance, are building blocks of your retirement income. Employee pensions and other savings accounts can also round out your income. Taking stock of where your income will come from can help you plan.

Estimate your retirement expenses. Divide up your expenses into fixed costs (i.e. mortgage, insurance, taxes) and discretionary expenses (travel, activities, entertainment). If later you need to reduce your expenses, this activity will make it easier to identify areas to trim.

Start an emergency fund. By setting aside money today, you can more easily to cover any unexpected needs or get through a cash flow disruption down the road.

Assess your net worth. This is an important step in that it helps you determine your true financial status. Create a net worth statement that details your assets and liabilities.

Evaluate your asset allocation. How diversified are you across different asset classes? Create an asset allocation statement that identifies your holdings in real estate, stocks, bonds and more.

Review your insurance. Be sure that your assets and investments are sufficiently protected, and that your beneficiaries are up-to-date.

2. Shine a spotlight on your happiness

What’s important to you in retirement? Is travel a priority? Maybe you’re looking to spend time with your family and get more involved with your local community. If you’re part of Boomerang, learning new skills and connecting with like-minded people likely matter to you. All of these goals play a big part in how you manage your retirement and should be taken into consideration as you plan out this new phase of your life.

Need some inspiration? Read more about the 5 most popular hobbies in retirement.

If you are looking to connect with people who are preparing for retirement or already retired, Boomerang may be a great place to start. It’s a social community that encourages connection, learning and purpose for retired and semi-retired Canadians. Through interactive online workshops, you’ll be able to learn new skills such as photography or creative writing, or take part in activities like guided meditations and book club hangouts. It is free to join Boomerang, and members get access to over 100 workshops and events at a low or no cost.

3. Design your retirement health plan

Your current health status is a crucial part of your retirement planning. Understand your medical history, your risks and vulnerabilities, as well as your long-term care options. While your future health needs are not necessarily easy to think about, getting comfortable with your options — and communicating your intentions with your family — can help you create a realistic plan for the future.

Keep in mind, maintaining your mental wellness is just as important as your physical health. Many people struggle with an empty schedule after years of steady work — along with ensuing feelings of loneliness and isolation. While you may need some time to decompress at the onset of retirement, scheduling structured time every day for exercise, social gatherings, phone calls, meditation, spiritual practices or knowledge expansion will help shift you into a new, healthy rhythm of life.When you take all three of these steps in harmony, you can be better prepared for a retirement that addresses your whole self and your complete range of goals and needs. By creating a complete retirement picture — rather than striving for a perfect one — you can plan for a well-rounded, honest and positive version of your future.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.