You probably have a few ideas about what life in retirement will look like. Unfortunately, nothing is guaranteed, and that fulfilling retirement you dream of may not turn out to be exactly what you had imagined. Retirement planning can be more effective if you are aware of some of the potential pitfalls you might encounter. Watch out for these retirement red flags:
You have not prepared for the possibility of a long life. People are living longer due to advances in science and medicine. There were 53,364 centenarians in the U.S. in 2010, a number that is projected to grow to more than 600,000 by 2050. If you are fortunate enough to be part of that growing number, you may want to plan for a longer retirement than what has historically been the norm. If you retire at 65, you could spend another 20 to 30 years in retirement. You don’t want to run out of resources when you still have years to live.
You and your spouse are not on the same page. It is helpful for couples to understand the expectations each of you has regarding retirement. You will do things together, and you will pursue your own individual interests. But each of your roles will change now that you could be together 24/7. Husbands retiring from a managerial role may find themselves tempted to utilize their skills to manage the household even though their spouse has successfully handled that for decades. If one partner is used to being at home with a regular routine established, the introduction of an ever-helpful spouse can cause waves. It is just as important to have private time to pursue individual interests as it is to spend quality time together.
You have not yet considered what you will do to occupy yourself. While pursuing a career that likely spanned 30 years or more, much of your daily life and routine was dictated by the job. Interaction with others and recognition for your efforts likely gave meaning to your days. However, when you retire, you get to decide how your hours will be occupied. The good news is you can choose to do whatever you wish. The challenge is if you have not thought ahead, you may run out of ideas before too long. While you may be able to keep busy, it can be more challenging to find meaningful activities that make the moments spent worthwhile.
You are not taking care of your health. The basic challenges of everyday life tend to get more difficult as we age. However we can do our best to reduce the impact of aging by living a healthy lifestyle, watching what we eat, exercising regularly and avoiding excesses. If we do not do our part to maintain our physical health, we may not be as well prepared to fully experience what retired life has to offer.
You try to do everything on your own. We have lived an independent life to this point. It can be challenging to hand over the reins to someone else, but we will likely sacrifice some part of our independence as we age. You probably won’t be able to do everything yourself in retirement. Make sure that you set up a support system for your later years when help is likely to be increasingly necessary.
You feel impatient with everything. The elderly are seldom renowned for exhibiting excess amounts of patience. The hard truth is that aging is a challenge. Ideally, we will learn to cut those around us a little slack and smile once in a while, even though we may feel like screaming. If every little thing rubs us the wrong way, not only will retirement be a painful time, but we may find ourselves alone when few people choose to tolerate our rantings.
You resign yourself to let life pass you by. You may start to find yourself thinking, “I am too old for this.” Sure, you cannot do everything you used to at 20, but there is still much that you are capable of doing. My aunt, at 72, just returned from three weeks in Russia, and has penciled in a two week safari in Africa a few months down the road. My 82-year-old parents were cutting a rug at my daughter’s recent wedding, showing us youngsters how it is done. At 88, Michelangelo was still working on St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. It’s not over until it’s over.
Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.