What Will You Do When You Retire?

Written by Robin Young, CFP® on .

The Unexpected Luxury of Time

As your retirement date draws nearer, there can be a great deal of excitement and apprehension. You have worked for thirty or forty years—and changing your routine, priorities, and obligations is something to look forward to. On the other hand, uncertainty can begin creeping in when you start to think about all that time. What if the new and less structured life you are about to embark upon isn't enough to sustain you?

As you age, the questions you may have asked yourself in your younger years become more profound in later stages. Questions like-- "Am I living the life I want to live? Who is most important to me? What is most important to me?" have more resonance as you age. It is likely because you are more cognizant of your own mortality and you want to make the most of the time that you have.

The conundrum that a lot of retirees encounter is that they have so much time, but begin to feel like there isn't much time left. The reality, however, is that upon retirement most people are looking at another 30 or more years of experiences, memories, challenges, and milestones. People are living longer and healthier lives and closing the chapter on your career is a new opportunity to begin another chapter that could last just as long as the last.

Looking ahead thirty years can feel a bit daunting and the first thing to tackle is whether your savings will last as long as you do. Once the financial longevity question is answered comes the real challenge: determining what you will do with the unexpected luxury of time. We recommend putting things into perspective by looking at your time in increments and then ensuring that your savings are aligned with your plans.

Beyond Money

When planning for retirement, money is not the only thing that you need to consider. Having an idea of what you want to do and having a strategy for how you will spend your time will serve you well once your retirement date comes. We have found that clients who have created a plan in advance have an easier time adjusting to life in retirement.

While it is important to make sure that you have saved enough to satisfy your needs, personal financial goals and legacy wishes, buffer against major health issues and any unplanned-for expenses, it is important to remember that money is not the panacea for a successful retirement. Having a strategy for budgeting your time and your emotional and physical well-being, can sometimes prove to be the more challenging task.

Staying productive and engaged in retirement is critical to leading a happier life as you age. Leading research shows that those who maintain active and healthy lifestyles in retirement live longer and have fewer age related health issues. Aging well and aging gracefully should be a cornerstone of your retirement plan.

Your Unique Plan

Taking a long look in the mirror can help you find a good place to start when considering what you might choose to pursue when you retire. What do you like about your career? What might you stand to lose when you leave? Asking yourself these questions may inspire some creative ideas about what you choose to do with your time in this new chapter of life.

It is important to plan for the day-today aspects of your life beyond taking trips, visiting grown children and grandchildren, spending more time with friends, etc. Those activities are typically short term and you will find yourself with a great deal of unplanned-for time if those are the only plans you put your focus on. Do you have a passion for something that you've not had the time to invest in? Are there people you would like to help? Is there a hobby you have that has the potential to be a small business? Do you like to teach? Do you want to be more involved with your community or in government? Asking and answering these types of questions can help you identify opportunities for you to fill your time with substantive activities and experiences and instill a sense of purpose.

Phase Out

In the last few decades more and more companies have begun offering the phased retirement option. Part of the reason is because 65 is not "old" anymore and people aren't ready to leave their careers. Another is that employers are seeing the value in keeping senior staff on as mentors to newer members of the team or having skilled and experienced workers stay on in a part-time capacity. There are multiple benefits to keeping one foot in the door at your job: You stay engaged socially, your mind stays alert and acute, you have free time to explore other opportunities, and you have a little extra income.

The Third Age

The concept of the Third Age is one that is very popular in Europe and looks at the growing human life cycle and the particular period of time that happens after middle age and before old age. The Baby Boomer generation is the first to experience this new Third Age and many aren't even considering "retirement" in the formal sense of the word.

Seeking a meaningful occupation later in life is becoming more and more prevalent among Baby Boomers. When many of life's traditional goals have been reached, there is more time to explore what you can do that will satisfy your desire for industry and aspiration for well-being. According to career/life coach Margaret Newhouse, founder of the Life Planning Network, there is more flexibility for people to explore what life has to offer. "You have more freedom in an actual sense," says Newhouse. "But more importantly, I think, is a psychological freedom that comes with age--having a greater perspective on what's important in life and a willingness to just be that person--without regard to what other people think." For encore-career participants, money is less of a motivator than enjoyment.

What's Right For You...

You may be reading this article and shaking your head. You might be thinking, "I have no interest in replacing my job with another job. I want to wake up without an alarm, take a nice walk, read all of the books I've always meant to but never had the time, garden in the spring and bake in the fall, spend time with my family and take a few vacations each year."

To this we say, "Great Work!"

You have a very clear idea of how you want to spend your time in retirement. Not everyone wants to or needs to be a captain of industry just because they have the time. The point is to have a plan for what you will do. If someone told you that you were going to retire next week and you don't have any idea of what your days, weeks and months will look like, then that could be a pause for concern. Just as with finances, planning for retirement far in advance will benefit you most in the long term.

There is no manual for how to have a successful retirement. And for each person, what that success looks like is entirely unique. We specialize in helping people plan for life's transitions so that they can experience life's journey with peace-of-mind. Considering how you define happiness and success is an important first step in creating a sound retirement plan. If you need help with this or any other financial transition, do not hesitate to reach out and schedule a consultation.

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