The quality of the retirement life we will have depends in large part on the planning and preparation we put into it. Entering retired life with no insight into what it entails or idea of what you will do with your time is a mistake. Do you realize that if you retire at 65 you will likely live another 20 or more years as a retiree?
That is two decades without a job or career to dictate what you will do during your days. During that time you alone are responsible for creating a lifestyle with meaningful moments and exciting events to make the most of your second act. Getting here has been no easy task, and now that you have arrived at the doorstep of retirement you want to experience the best possible scenario.
Rolling into retirement with no preparation or forethought can leave your future to the whims of chance. Wouldn’t you prefer to have a stake in the life you will live? No one wants to look back after what has been a less than stellar retirement trying to find excuses. You cannot point the finger at anyone if you are not willing to assume responsibility for creating the retirement best suited to you. Answering these five questions can help you to develop a plan for your retirement years:
What does retirement mean to you? Once you retire, how exactly do you picture living the next 20 or more years of your life? Perhaps you view retirement as a time of relaxation and escape from the harried working world. It could also be a chance to do all of the things you have not been able to do while working. For many people retirement is a little bit of both. By having a better understanding of what retirement living means to you before you retire you can better prepare. Discuss with your spouse your views and expectations, since the two of you are in this together. Figure out where your plans coincide and where they may conflict. You do not necessarily need to do anything immediately or make specific changes, but knowing how each of you views retirement ahead of time can avoid surprises later.
What will you do for yourself in retirement? If you want to enjoy a good retirement you need to stay healthy in body and mind. Things will obviously get harder as we get older, so we should do our best to fight back with a healthy lifestyle. One of my retired readers said the best advice she could give is to get and stay as fit as possible before health and stamina abandon us. As we assume responsibility for creating the best retirement possible, it is up to us to make good personal choices.
What can you do to occupy your time? Some people prefer to wait and see what retirement is all about before they commit to doing anything. They want to take some time to explore and go with the flow, filling their day with whatever comes along. Their retirement lifestyle evolves over time, and they are fine with that. Retirees who will need a more definitive path should start identifying interests and passions to pursue before they retire. For them, a plan will help them to feel more secure about their future.
Will you work in some capacity while retired? Some employees have no choice but to work beyond retirement age. Other people have the freedom to make a choice. In this case, you need to weigh the benefits of staying in the working world against the negative aspects of your job. On the positive side, working gives you interactions with co-workers, recognition for a job well done, and stimulating projects to engage your mind. But a job often also brings stress, competition to climb the corporate ladder, and the loss of free time to do as you want.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about retiring? Do you look forward to living your second act and taking advantage of available time to pursue your passions and dreams? Or are you worried about what awaits once you take the plunge? If you fear what retirement holds, try to better understand what exactly makes you nervous. Is it something that you can fix in the time remaining before you retire? If you can identify problem areas while there is still time to take corrective action you might be able to head off those fears before they become part of your retirement.
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.