When I used to contemplate retirement, I pictured a world beyond work where I would be free to do whatever I wanted or even nothing at all. Retirement was not about what I would be doing, but what I would no longer be forced to do: the daily grind, heavy commuter traffic, stressful meetings, and the constant battle to rise higher in the ranks. My retirement would include none of this and good riddance.
I planned to save diligently throughout my working days and pay off big debts along the way. I wanted to be financially prepared by age 65 to rest and relax, enjoy my free time, not worry about tomorrow, and just live in the moment. That wishful thinking was pretty much my plan for retirement.
The reality is quite different for many people entering retired life. No one questions the importance of providing for your financial needs in retirement. We certainly need enough money to live and enjoy ourselves after we leave the workforce. But once you have the money side of things taken care of, there are still other retirement preparations that need to be made. Consider what you will do for the next twenty or thirty years. Assuming you now have the time to do what you want to do, what exactly are you going to do?
Too many people enter retirement with no plans beyond having enough money to make it to the end. Their main goal has been to reach retirement age, while little or no thought has gone into what happens next. If you don’t plan and prepare for your retired life, you may discover yourself just existing rather than truly living. Instead of waking each morning excited about what the day may hold, you could find yourself bored, alone, confused, and unsure. Without planning for your life after retirement, are you even ready to retire? Before you retire, ask yourself:
- What activities do I find most interesting that can occupy my days? Beyond just keeping busy, what meaningful endeavors can I undertake since I have the time to do so?
- Are there interests that I am passionate about? Retirement provides the time and freedom to do what you have never been able to do. Pursuing a passion inspires us and helps keep us feeling young.
- As I slow down over time, how will I adjust my lifestyle and activities to account for the challenges of aging? Our physical and mental condition will change over the years, so we need to factor that into our plans.
- How will I balance relaxing with productive activities? Sometimes it’s great to slow down and escape the whirling activities of daily life. But there is much to be gained from hobbies, volunteer work, and other productive activities. Retirement does not necessarily mean that you withdraw completely from society, even if you want to slow down a bit
- Is there something I have dreamed of doing, but never had the time due to work and family commitments? Is there any real reason why I can’t do that activity in retirement?
- Should my health deteriorate, what options do I have in the area for assisted living arrangements? Will I be able to stay in my home independently? Can I possibly live with other family members? What will I do if the time comes when I need help?
- Do I want to continue living in my current community or would a move be desirable? And, if so, where to?
- Do I have a sufficient support network available in my current friends and family?
- Are there opportunities in my daily life to engage my mind and body so I remain as healthy as I can?
Retirement can be a time for us to pursue passions that have excited us throughout our lives, but it does not automatically happen. We need to put effort into our retirement happiness. Beyond the financials, we must also generate ideas and an action plan for a fulfilling and stimulating retired life.
Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.