Many people spend a few minutes of every workday fantasizing about their retirement. They dream of the day when they can finally dedicate themselves fully to the perfection of their golf swing. They might indulge visions of an idyllic life filled with grandchildren, luncheons, and travel.
Yet, while many will see the realization of these dreams during an initial honeymoon phase, the reality is that they will have to consider many other factors if they are to enjoy a happy, secure retirement.
The average life expectancy in the United States is upwards of 72 years. Our modern conveniences and health care have extended the length of time most of us must plan to live on a retiree’s income. As you plan your own transition to retirement, you’ll need to determine how you’ll be able to provide for your financial needs as well as an enriched quality of life.
Create a Vision
When the honeymoon period immediately following retirement has come to an end, retirees find they have an abundance of mental and chronological space to fill. Most of them have spent the last forty years or more in jobs that took them away from home for eight to ten hours every day. To suddenly have such a large amount of free time can leave many people feeling restless. Moreover, much of our sense of identity is tied to our profession. When the working years of our life are over, it’s imperative that we discover new roles, new sources of meaning in our lives.
To preserve and potentially even enrich your sense of self, you must create a vision for this new chapter in your life. Will you have a retirement which focuses on a new career, family, travel, or something else?
Happy Home? Negotiating New Roles and Changed Relationships
It used to be that men left home for work each day while their wives stayed home to care for children and domestic issues. Nowadays, many men and women have both enjoyed their own careers.
When one spouse retires before the other, issues around money and the power balance within their relationships may come to the fore as old routines are disrupted. If both spouses suddenly find themselves in close quarters, they may find it necessary to get to know one another all over again.
The good news is that if both mates approach the process mindfully, this process of becoming reacquainted can enliven their relationship. It can be refreshing to rediscover your mate free of the old the distractions of work politics and children.
Take time to sit down with your spouse and discuss the changed roles you will occupy as you transition to retirement. Try to negotiate roles which leave both parties feeling respected and appreciated.
Our longer life expectancies mean that we must all find ways to ensure our bank accounts do not give out before we do. Hopefully, you have taken time to sit down with a financial planner to discuss how to make your funds last.
Your age at retirement, whether or not you have a pension, and how successful you have been at saving will all influence the rosiness of your financial picture. If, like many people, you have gotten a late start, or have been hit hard by the recent recession, fear not as there are still many options available to provide for your retirement. Some of these include:
- Postponing your retirement
- Working part-time
- Downsizing your living quarters
- Reverse mortgages
- Liquidation of non-essential assets
A financial planner can help you to create a stream of post-retirement income that will support your lifestyle. In addition to their expertise, you may wish to consult an insurance agent for advice regarding life insurance, supplemental health insurance, final expense insurance, and long-term care insurance. Knowing that you have contingency plans in place to handle all of these matters as they arise will give you great peace of mind.
Will You Work?
For many retirees, work presents the opportunity to fill both a financial and emotional gap. Enjoyable work bolsters your self-esteem, keeps your mind healthy and active, and provides an important social outlet. As much as you may love your spouse, chances are good that you will both enjoy a few private, productive hours each day.
It is not uncommon for many of us to have more than one career. Whereas the profession of your formative years may have been chosen based on familial expectations, or motivations born purely out of financial need, your post-retirement career offers the chance to do work that reflects your passions. This is the time when many professionals choose to share all they have learned over the years by teaching or writing. Channeling your years of experience thus often provides a seamless transition into a new work situation. To enter a position with your credibility already established allows you to circumvent much of the anxiety involved with more typical career transitions.
Perhaps the job you held for so many years did not reflect changes in your personality or interests. If that is the case, retirement opens up a world of possibilities. Drastic changes in your professional direction are viewed as quite natural at this stage in life. If you have held dearly onto dreams of being a painter, opening a small business, or ditching your white collar position for something more physical, now is the time to go for it.
Return to Learning
A curious mind ensures a healthy brain. What better way could there be to maintain your neurological health than to become a life long learner? You will have all the time you need for research and study. More importantly, you are more certain of the true passions that ignite your mind. All of these things make it possible for a return to school to be more successful and gratifying than the first time around.
Getting a masters’ degree or Ph.D. may facilitate any goals you have for a second career, or transition to teaching. If your return to school is purely for enrichment, you may even be able to attend for free. Depending on available space, many universities allow retirees to audit classes as guests.
There is no need to assume that the life of a retiree should be limited to golf, grandchildren and rocking chairs on the porch. While these things remain part of the collective vision of leisurely golden years, the vitality of typical retirees makes it necessary to find additional ways to stay active and engaged.
Rather than merely being an age of reminiscing and relaxing, transition to retirement is becoming synonymous with rediscovering oneself. Encounters with recent retirees will often reveal people who feel and look rejuvenated. Many report that they are deriving more satisfaction from life than they had in years.
By properly creating a vision for your retirement which includes means of maintaining your physical, mental, emotional, and financial health, you will ensure that your transition to retirement is just as fulfilling.