Where previously in our lives our schedule is filled with work and kids, suddenly you may find yourself with a lot of free time. Oftentimes, people haven’t really set enough time aside to think about what they want to do once they are retired. This is troubling because lacking a clear plan of action or difficulty adapting to a big life change are what can really derail a retirement.[i] It’s easy over decades of working to think of retirement as a finish line, but the danger in that, regardless of how much you have in the bank, is once you are carrying that box off your desk for the last time, you are left with a feeling of now what?
People are living longer and that means you could very well be retired for thirty or more years. As that is a lot of time to fill with crosswords and daytime TV, a good rule is long before you are cutting into that retirement send-off cake, have an idea what your next move will be. Creating solid plans for what your retirement will look like will not only ease some of the now what feeling but will help you understand how much money you need and anticipate your new daily routine.
A Life Well Lived
If you were to read your obituary today, would you be content with the life lived? This is not to scare you but rather to motivate you. If you haven’t hit the goals or had the experiences you’d planned to, in part because life got in the way, now is the time to check them off your bucket list. While retirement is the end of one thing it can be the beginning of so many new things. If you’ve always wanted to go back to school, if you’ve always wanted to start a business, if you’ve always wanted to learn a new skill, or perhaps to travel or live abroad, this is the time. But as these dreams have been with you for ages, the challenge will be making the fantasy a reality. This is where looking at your finances and creating a budget that can accommodate making your retirement a fulfilling time comes into play. Discuss your desires with your partner, as they surely have some goals of their own. Getting on the same page will help everyone move closer to their goals. You may need to cut back and invest more in the present. You may need to downsize, refinance, or move investments around. With a plan and time, you are much more likely to reach your goals.
Planning for retirement should involve not only looking at your bucket list but also thinking about your day to day routine. If you had an all-encompassing career, the sudden influx of time may actually be a little challenging to navigate. When making goals and plans in retirement, it’s important to look at the total package. Making healthful choices by eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising can help stave off illness and challenges that come with getting older. Exercise does not have to mean solely going to the gym either, even just taking a daily walk, yard work, or a big house clean may be beneficial. Inactivity drastically increases with age, with 1 in 3 men and 1 in 2 women engaging in no physical activity at all.[ii] Even if you’ve never been particularly active or a healthy eater, now is a good time to start.
Being a Part of Something
Oftentimes, loneliness can become an issue in retirement, especially if you don’t have a lot of social outlets. In fact, studies have shown loneliness in old age to be as big a health risk as smoking or obesity.[iii] Nurturing relationships and building new ones is one of the best ways to stay healthy and happy well into one's later years. Finding things within your community that you are passionate about, be it volunteering, mentoring, gardening, etc. will help give your life structure and aid in meeting like-minded people and being part of your community. Our advice is always to have a passion that gets you out of bed each day.
Try it Out
If you’ve always wanted to travel but never had the time, planning some small trips to get a feel for the experience and cost may be a good idea. If you’ve always wanted to sail, perhaps taking some lessons before investing in a large new hobby could be a prudent way to try it out before making a huge investment. If the things you want to do and the lifestyle you want to lead isn’t looking feasible, this is also the time to think about downsizing, perhaps moving to a smaller home in a less expensive area that will be easier to manage as you get older. Looking into communities that you can stay in comfortably, where you can walk or take public transit to doctors and amenities, for example, may simplify your life by not needing to arrange transportation. Taking the plunge sooner rather than later may help you get the most out of your retirement.
Taking the time to dream big, to create realistic budgets, and to make sure your ideas of retirement align with your partner or family, will put you ahead in your retirement planning. Confirming that the life you want to lead and the amount of money in the bank are in synch can alleviate causing stress that you aren’t prepared to retire. You’ve worked hard to retire well and part of that, like most things worthwhile, is having a plan and sticking to it. Try looking at your retirement not as an endpoint, but in fact the beginning of a number of exciting things, where often the only limit is your imagination.
Good Luck and Happy Retirement!