It is hard to have a really fool proof plan or to give you some off the shelf mantras about retirement. However, retirement planning calls for discipline and making money work harder for you. Here are the steps you must go about carefully and methodically.

· First and foremost ensure that you make a detailed sketch of your retired life down to the minute details. This is a fairly elaborate decision and has many nuances. Consider the following. How much money you need and planning for it is just one part of it. How are you going to keep yourself mentally and emotionally engaged post retirement? More often than not, retirement leaves you with a feeling of emptiness as your identity, in a way, goes away with your job. Are you going to continue to work or consult post retirement? How are you going to take care of your spouse and how do you plan to have a good life after your retirement; including social gatherings, travel, community service etc. A very important decision is whether you want to continue to live in your current location or whether you want to shift to more salubrious locations like a rustic environment or to the hills.

· Secondly, get hold of a competent financial advisor you can repose faith on. Don’t try to do the entire task yourself because you may have neither the time nor the temperament to do the detailing. Leave to the experts. It is often said that 80% of retirement planning is all about money and that is bang on target. With longer life spans due to better medical facilities, it is very likely that your post retirement life will be as long as the working career. That means you need to be financially prepared for it. The process starts with identifying a good financial advisor. What should you look for in your financial advisor? You need a person of honesty and integrity who can transparently tell you the risks and rewards of retirement planning. You surely do not want a slick salesman who promises you the moon. Rather look for a conservative advisor who is willing to put your interest on top.

· Thirdly, make a proper estimate of your return requirements. Determine your return requirements down to the small details. Well, to continue to earn money after you retire you need to invest and these investments must work hard for you. Be conservative when it comes to your return requirement. Don’t plan your expenses assuming that equities will continue to generate 25% returns annually. There are going to be bad decisions, bad markets and sheer bad luck. Don’t plan an extravagant post-retired life based on some fanciful expectations of investment returns. Prioritize your needs post retirement and plan accordingly.

· Do you know how much risk you should be taking? That would depend on your risk profile and by mapping your risk tolerance profile. This is a key decision to ensure that you have a comfortable retirement. You have different risk tolerance at different stages of your life. Your tolerance for equities is much higher at 25 than at 45. It would be naïve to have an all-debt portfolio at 25 or an all-equity portfolio at 45. Risk not only shifts with changing age but also with changing circumstances and changing market conditions. That is where a competent advisor can make a big difference.

· You need money in a lump-sum and gradually so make a separate plan for both. Create a plan for regular and lump-sum outflows. The next step, obviously, is to create a detailed plan for your retirement. This not only includes your regular income requirements but also your lump-sum requirements. Your retirement plan should ideally be a mix of bulk receipts and annuity receipts. The annuity receipts are to meet your regular and routine expenses. The secret of retirement plan is to ensure that the annuities continue to be generated by your bulk investments without depleting your corpus.

· OK. It is time to create a nest egg and actually start making money work for you. This is perhaps the most important step. You surely do not want to be surprised after your retirement by sudden expenses. It could be a life threatening disease, it could be a disability or it could be a family commitment that you have to contribute to. You certainly do not have any control over such events. The best you can do is to create a small emergency fund that you can fall back upon in the worst of times. This is also important because there are a lot of goals along the way and retirement is only one of them. You need to ensure that even if you are not around, your family’s dreams and aspirations do not get stifled.

· Freedom comes from not depending on anybody so work towards self reliance for yourself and your spouse. Ensure that you and your spouse are self-reliant post retirement. The big shift after the rise of nuclear families is that people are increasingly becoming self-dependent. Parents and children prefer their own space and the trend is more towards parents living independently post retirement. From a long term point of view it is always desirable that you and your spouse continue to be independent post retirement. Financial planning, your property planning and your expense planning need to take care of that.

· Finally, make it a point to take proper care of your health; either ways. Taking care of your health post retirement has two major implications. Remember, after the age of 60 you are biologically inclined to have a lot more health related worries. Focus on your diet and your fitness regime a lot more post retirement. The natural tendency when you have a lot of free time is to take things easy and relax. A good diet and fitness regimen is not only physically but even mentally and psychologically desirable for you. The second aspect is of adequate health insurance. Medical costs are soaring through the roof and you need to plan for it adequately. There are certain special kinds of ailment for which you must look at add-on covers. Never ignore this aspect!

There is no rocket science to smart retirement planning. You just need to start early, plan down to the last detail and make money work hard for you. Retirement planning is not just about taking care of your expenses but your post retirement dreams.