Far more than merely an economic event, retirement is a life redefining milestone. Leaving work and transitioning to a different way to spend your time and money can change your identity. One trick: an open mind regarding leisure, learning, family and, believe it or not, even more work.
Many unhappy retirees have enough money. They simply failed to come up with a new idea of who they are and what they do after the working years ended. Planning finances to understand how you can afford to live — and how long you can support the lifestyle you want — looms large. You needn’t retire just because you reach a certain age or a certain dollar amount of savings.
Retire because preparation for the next phase of life leaves you eager for new pursuits.
Such reinventing takes many forms. Children and grandkids can fill more of your calendar. You may become a nearly full-time volunteer. The golf course may call you or you may further develop a long-lost hobby.
Maybe you’ll return to formal learning, a great way to keep your mind active and expand your knowledge or skills. Especially given the mushrooming of online education, you can audit classes, watch the lectures via the Web or participate in research, homework and earn credits. You may even qualify for financial aid.
Couples face special considerations about retiring. Do you each intend to retire at the same time? Do your individual visions of retirement include the same or very different pastimes?
Frankly, don’t rely on your spouse to share all your interests — or to want to spend all day every day with you. I once heard a colleague, talking about retirement plans, share this perspective from his wife: “I married you for better or worse, but not for lunch.” Get out of the house and find something to occupy your time.
Planning remains as important in retirement as before it. You can travel, depending on your financial situation, yet even heavy travelers wind up filling a lot of at-home days. Catching up on that stack of books on your nightstand or your long-overdue garden project may initially occupy your golden years. Beware eventual bouts of boredom.
One option: Don’t fully retire. Simply cutting back on work may be in order, more vacation, part-time hours and a slow transition rather than you on the job one day and retired the next. Try a month of vacation, living as if retired to see how it suits you.
Of course, you might not get to pick your retirement date: Job loss, health problems or other unexpected troubles can end your career before you expect. If this happens to you, a ready plan in place can help give you a sense of your options financially and occupationally.
Plan for different stages of retirement; your first retired decade may differ a lot from the following 10 years. In general, I find that the happiest retirees say, “I’m so busy now, I don’t know how I ever had time to work.”
Staying engaged in life and socially connected can help keep you from worrying about finances – suddenly the least interesting topic in your newly defined life.
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