Retirement is a pristine image we hold in our minds. We imagine long, leisurely days to do exactly what we want to do when we want to do it. It’s a reprieve from the daily grind, and when we get there, it’s going to be magical.
But for those looking to retirement as an escape, the reality of the mundane life that many fall into can be quite a disappointment. Instead of retiring from the things you don’t necessarily enjoy in your job, it’s imperative that you closely examine what you’ll retire to in the golden years.
What You Should Do Before You Retire
My dad worked 30 years with the same company (as people used to do in the good old days), and after he was forced into an early retirement by an organizational shake-up, his world was forever changed. In the first few months, he felt lost and struggled to figure out what to do next.
My dad wasn’t given the opportunity to plan ahead for retirement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. Below are a few questions to ask yourself when you’re in the pre-retirement phase. These can set you up for success in deciding what you plan to do in the brave, new post-retirement world.
- What goals do I want to accomplish when I retire?
- Are there hobbies I want to pursue?
- How will I schedule each day?
- Do I want activities to structure my day around?
- Will I work?
- Will work be part-time and bring in income, or do I want to spend time on a passion project that won’t necessarily make money?
- Are my assets lined up to allow me to have sufficient money in retirement?
The answers to these questions can serve as your guide for planning your retired life. Taking time to think through what the day-to-day looks like enables you to focus on how your life will be instead of fixating on how you spent your days when you were working.
Creating Your Retirement Identity
Whether you’re 65 and leaving the workforce for good or 35 and taking your first mini-retirement, your perceived purpose in life is going to be completely turned upside down.
Many people, myself included, are guilty of tying their self-worth into what they do. As soon as we’re no longer managers, analysts, CEOs, what have you, we have to figure out who we are in the absence of that title.
It’s far easier to begin to redefine your identity before the day you retire. But it’s important to realize that figuring out your new identity doesn’t mean changing everything about who you are.
Retirement should be seen as a smooth transition into the next stage of your life, not as blazing an entirely new path at the end of your career. Not only are you retiring from a job, but many other aspects of life also need to be rearranged. Post-retirement, you’ll need to:
- Define new social circles or strengthen old ones: For many people, co-workers become like family, especially if you’ve known them for years. Sometimes an exit from the workforce means the loss of your immediate social circle. It’s essential to maintain a social life in retirement as a community is one of the key ingredients in happiness.
- Create opportunities for personal development: Many corporations will pay for certifications or classes for employees as it relates to job duties. In retirement, it’s easy to forget that you can still learn new things and challenge yourself. Choose something you’ve wanted to learn and commit the time and financial resources to make it happen.
- Decide on a new normal for personal finances: It’s a big adjustment to go from receiving a full-time income to relying on savings and investments. Obviously, if you’re at a point where you’re choosing to retire, the financial house is pretty well in order. But daily spending, discretionary income, what investment vehicles you’ll pull money from for home repairs and travel, and how you’ll handle unexpected expenses are things you’ll want to have nailed down by the time your last paycheck comes in.
The Do’s And Don’ts Of Retiring To Something
As you consider identity changes and the mental stress associated with retiring, it’s critical to make sure you don’t focus on the wrong things. There are many things you should do to ensure a smooth transition, and also a few things you should avoid.
Don’t make drastic or unreasonable promises
Some people take the concept of “retiring to something” a bit too far and think that means they need to become someone completely new. In reality, you’re just becoming a different version of yourself.
So if you’ve never gone out and run a day in your life, perhaps indicating that you plan to run 20 miles a week in retirement is a bit of a stretch.
Before you retire, while brainstorming the things you want to accomplish, assess how reasonable they are. I like to create baby steps instead of giant leaps.
Something I want to do in retirement is to spend a substantial amount of time, perhaps several months, abroad. But to keep things more realistic, I’ll start by planning a two-week trip with my husband that leaves room for extending it if we want.
Do develop the habits you want in retirement now
Break off a small piece of the retiree you wish to become and implement small changes now. If you’re going to wake up early in retirement, but you presently sleep until 7:45 and run out the door, start to schedule the alarm a little earlier each day until you’re where you want to be.
Small habit changes now will create the person you want to be later.
I’m a huge proponent of staying active, and I plan to be extremely active in mini-retirements and when I get to a traditional retirement age. I’m sure to stay active now by dedicating time for weight training and making sure I get in walks.
These habits, which are ingrained over many years, are then part of my identity, and I’ll continue them through retirement.
Don’t think you’ll have endless motivation
It’s worth repeating that you’re still going to be the same person in retirement, just with a less structured schedule. So if you lacked the motivation to practice good spending habits while working, it’s likely you won’t magically become thrifty in retirement.
Motivation is something you create through your actions, and simply having more time isn’t going to drop heaps of inspiration in your lap.
Before you retire, assess ways to manage your motivation. I know that my inspiration comes from action. So I need to start doing something, and the action begets more motivation.
That’s why I tell myself that even if I don’t feel like it, I just need to work out for five minutes. After those five minutes are up, there’s not a single time where I’ve chosen not to continue.
Do view retirement as an opportunity
Think about retirement as a final career change. You are gifted with a clean slate and the chance to live how you want. So plan for the life you want, seize the possibilities that lie ahead, and think of this time as not the end of something but the beginning of something more.
Remember that just like it took you months or years to become “good” at your job, it can take months or years to become “good” at being retired. It’s not going to happen overnight. But taking a little time to plan what you’ll retire to goes a long way in easing the burden of the transition.
Contributor’s opinions are their own. Always do your own due diligence before investing.