You’ve put your time in, and now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Retirement is all about taking it easy and living life on your terms. No more keeping a tight schedule, no more putting those celebrations and life experiences off until later. Now is your time.
If this is how you picture your retirement, you’ve clearly got good goals in mind and you know how you plan to spend that time. Without a significant amount of planning, however, you may find it somewhat challenging to achieve your ideal retirement. Here’s a guide to ensuring you have that happy and healthy retirement you’ve worked so hard for all these years.
This is an important question should be the first of many considerations you make about how your retirement will take shape. You’ll need to take care of yourself physically, as feeling good in your own skin and staying active is critical to enjoying an active social life.
Time with your family and friends goes a long way toward making retirement happy. Multiple studies of retired persons show that maintaining strong social connections in combination with healthy physical activity is what has made the difference for hundreds of happy retirees.
Make a plan for how you intend to spend your days once you aren’t putting in a full day’s work every day. All the money in the world won’t make you happy, and loneliness and boredom can rob you of your happy retirement years. The social schedule of some active senior citizens would wear out the hardiest of professionals, and while you don’t need to keep that busy to be happy, staying active and social is good.
Once you have some type of plan for how you will spend your retirement years, you can start to consider other important factors. Let’s talk about those.
Cliched though it may be, the fact that you can’t buy your way to a happy and healthy retirement remains true. Having all the money in the world can’t make your retirement stress-free, especially if you have underlying issues regarding how to spend your golden years.
You have to take a holistic approach to planning for retirement, and that means addressing the personal as well as the financial. Debt causes stress, struggling to pay bills is stressful, but so is poor health for you or your spouse.
That’s not just physical health either: you need to ensure you are taking good care of your mental health and finding purpose in how you spend your days. You need to reflect on how you want to live now that your life and your time is in your own hands. Don’t ignore the non-financial aspects of retirement, as they are the concerns that make the difference between happiness and misery.
A steady retirement income remains a necessity. You may have a plan for how you invest your time now that almost all of it is in your control.
It’s also a fact that retired persons with a consistent source of retirement income (like a pension) experience less stress and feel less pressure to cut spending than those who depend on variable investment income. What’s important to remember is that you can always develop a consistent income from investments with the right financial advisor, allowing you to save yourself from money worries and dedicate your energy to what you truly enjoy.
The healthier you are, the more likely you are to have a happy retirement. Around 80 percent of retirees who self-scored their health as excellent expressed greater satisfaction with their retirement compared to the 26 percent who stated their health was poor.
It makes a good deal of sense too, especially considering how you may have thirty or forty years of living in retirement to enjoy. Poor health definitely takes a great deal of enjoyment out of your golden years and adds to your healthcare and medication costs, too.
On a more positive note, as a retiree, you have a new opportunity to spend your time on health and wellness. You have time to prepare more nutritious, healthy meals, take long walks, ride a bicycle where you need to go and get plenty of rest.
Locking in on your health as a priority is a great way to establish a positive routine during retirement, and it gives you more energy to be social with family and friends, and to volunteer your time toward causes you care about.
Once you retire, your needs change a great deal. Your car gets less use without the daily commute, your housing costs generally go down if your mortgage is paid off, and your focus becomes upkeep.
An issue that comes up for some retirees though is that classic problem of “keeping up with the Joneses.” People in your social circle who are either not retired or have greater financial freedom may be buying expensive toys and making expensive upgrades and changes to their home. It’s easy to be tempted to fall into that trap of getting what your neighbor has or better.
Don’t fall for it. This is one of the primary reasons retirees end up derailed financially, and it can be difficult getting back on track.
If your social circle is made up of people who like to live large and you personally cannot afford to live that way or you don’t want that to be your life in retirement, then don’t. Find other focuses for your time and energy.
One of the greatest sources of retirement unhappiness is choosing the wrong place to live or moving to the wrong geographic location for retirement. Many retirees pick a location for retirement for the low cost of living, or because they have loved vacationing there all their life. Too often, no one stops to consider other important factors.
Will you enjoy living in the community where you retire? Can friends and family visit easily? Many places are lovely for a visit, but they are less so when you live there year-round.
Relocating their entire life to a new location for retirement is among the top regrets that most retirees express, and it can be a costly mistake to make right if you decide staying is untenable.
A great source of joy for many retirees is giving their time and money to causes they care about. People often find that helping others helps and fulfills them just as much as they help meet the needs of others.
This ties in with the underlying and critical aspect of a happy retirement: finding a purpose for your life after retirement. Dedicating yourself to causes that matter to you and create a positive impact on the world can be a significant source of self-esteem, joy, and purpose.
Give this idea some thought as you transition from giving your time to someone else for money and start giving back to your community, your religious organization, or your local schools and charities.
Unstructured time and freedom from the daily grind can easily overwhelm the newly retired. You can sleep when you want, enjoy your hobbies and do what you like when you like. The problem is these freedoms can quickly settle into boredom, depression and eventually lead to strain in your relationships without a strong sense of purpose.
Before you retire, you want to think long and hard about what your purpose is once your career has concluded. Are you going to start a business just for fun to keep busy?
Do you plan to volunteer your time locally to worthy causes? Is an art studio or craftsman’s workshop something that keeps your fires burning?
Nobody can just quit working “cold turkey” and expect to function normally. You need a vision of what your happy retired life looks like, and what purpose your life will serve post-retirement. After all, there are only so many fishing trips you can make and only so many rounds of golf you can play.
Your 9-to-5 doesn’t need to end at retirement, it just transforms into a 9-to-5 that’s all about you and your purpose. Keeping a set schedule and maintaining a routine helps prevent restlessness, boredom, and depression from settling in. Happy retirees find a way to transition from being busy because they have to be into being busy with what they want to do.
Integrating your daily exercise and eating healthy into this routine can make a tremendous difference. It helps you fully appreciate what all that free time can accomplish. Keeping a routine also helps you stay socially active too.
Family and friends will often welcome a weekly event or activity like games, trips to the park or making a meal together. Not only do you have things to look forward to each day, but you also build stronger connections with the people in your life who matter most.
You’ve put this one off long enough. It’s time to get out and see those places you’ve dreamed of seeing all your life.
It doesn’t matter if it's a day trip by car or a trip around the world, it’s time to shake the dust off your feet and hit the road. There are hundreds of resources for retirees who want to travel. If you have your heart set on a grand tour there are likely programs out there to help you make those dreams into a reality.
Talk with your financial adviser about how to save for that big trip, and talk to your spouse about where you want to go and what you want to do. Making travel plans is a great way to establish purpose for your retirement, and it gives you more to look forward to as the departure date draws near.
Setting goals for your retirement and achieving them can go a long way to getting the greatest satisfaction out of your retirement years. Start planning now so you can enjoy those trips together when the time comes.
No matter how strong your relationship or how much you love your spouse, retirement can be a tough transition. After years of spending limited time together, you are now home 100 percent of the time.
If your spouse is still working this isn’t necessarily a problem, but if you are both retiring it can have a significant impact on your relationship. Many couples are looking forward to getting to know their partner again and growing closer, but you may need to establish some ground rules and boundaries to maintain your sanity.
For some couples, this means one of you works during the day, even if it is just a part-time job doing something you or they enjoy. It’s also helpful to sit down and have a conversation about what you each plan to get out of retirement and manage those expectations appropriately.
Talk about what you want to do together and what you want to do by yourself, and mock-up a calendar to prevent surprises. Establish who will take care of what chores around the house, and how often they need to be done. It may seem simple, but attention to these small details can make a significant difference in your relationship post-retirement.
As you reach retirement age, you may not necessarily have all your ducks in a row financially. Your nest egg might need a few more years to be satisfactory, or it may have done all the growing it is going to do.
If you have enough to maintain a comfortable lifestyle but not much extra, there’s no reason to live in misery. You may not be living the luxurious lifestyle you had hoped for, but that doesn’t mean your whole retirement plan is completely blown out of the water.
Coming to terms with reality is a critical component of a happy retirement. Some retirees don’t need tons of money to spend and to go on three luxury cruises per year for the rest of their life.
Recognizing your financial limitations and being happy living within your means is what makes the difference between happiness and misery. Don’t spend time thinking and worrying about what you don’t have in retirement: focus on the wealth you have.
True wealth isn’t always money. For many retirees, it’s having their health and enjoying all the time they want with their friends and family, time to enjoy their favorite hobbies and activities, and not about how much money they have in the bank.
When you change your perspective on wealth in retirement, it makes a tremendous difference in your happiness. Above all, practice contentment with what you have, take care of your health, and happiness is sure to follow.
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This is a post from Clint Haynes, a Certified Financial Planner® and Financial Advisor in Kansas City, Missouri. He is also the founder and owner of NextGen Wealth. You can learn more about Clint at the website NextGen Wealth.
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