I want to look beyond the financial aspect of retirement planning and instead focus on the day-to-day reality of living life as a retired person.
There is no single retirement age, or even specific age when one becomes a “senior citizen.” Discounts at restaurants, movie theaters, and retail chains begin as young as 50. Some resist those benefits for as long as possible; they do not want to feel old even if it does mean paying less for dinner. Others cannot wait to trot out their AARP card and take advantage of those financial rewards. Even they, though, are often unprepared for the dramatic mind shift retirement requires.
If you retire at age 66, which is the current age to receive full social security benefits, and you started employment at 16, you have spent half a century working. Retirement is supposed to be the light at the end of the tunnel, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This is your time, and you have earned it. Some people jump into retirement with both feet and never look back. For many, though, this transition is not an easy one, as the psychological adjustments are many. Anxiety, depression, and feelings of loss are common, and it is no wonder. Many people self-identify through their career, through the work they do. What happens to that identity now?
You are also looking at spending much more time with your spouse, which requires an adjustment even if you are one of the lucky couples that is more in love today than when you married. You have also lost vital social interaction with coworkers, and you are probably looking for some way to remain active. After all, you likely have another 15, 20, maybe even 30 years in front of you. What will you do with that time?
In study after study, retirees report needing to feel a greater sense of purpose, a feeling of contribution, similar to what they enjoyed during their careers. Doctors agree that planning psychologically for your retirement is almost as important as planning for it financially. Luckily, this is a simple task.
- Begin with a list of what you envision for your retirement. Get creative with it if you like, creating a collage or Pinterest board. Have fun with it, but also be specific.
- Talk to your spouse or significant other about his or her retirement expectations. Communication is crucial, especially when you are looking at spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week with this person, possibly for the first time in your relationship. Do not be afraid to express your wish for “me” time, either, whether it is once a day or once a year.
- Consider a new career, one that follows a previously unexplored passion. If you have acquired adequate savings for your retirement, you do not need to worry about the financial rewards of your second career, only the psychological ones.
- Have you always wanted to volunteer but never had the time? You do now, and your talents and skills are desperately needed. If you cannot think of an organization you would like to help, search online for volunteer opportunities.
- Imagine your ideal schedule for an entire year and write it down, from travel to daily household chores. It will help you envision the day-to-day reality of retired life.
- Take charge of your health: improved diet, exercise, and routine doctor visits.
- Find a new hobby. Have you always wanted to learn how to paint? Take a class! Community colleges, local libraries, craft shops, and online YouTube videos are a treasure trove of How To information for just about any hobby you can name.
Even if you have already retired, it is not too late to consider these options. You have earned this time, do everything you can to enjoy it!