Most advice on retirement planning focuses on how to save enough money to replace your salary.
But work provides us with more than income. Many of us get a sense of meaning, achievement, and even identity from what we do. Work also provides the social connections and structures of our time.
Experts (including those who have already retired) are encouraged to think about how to replace these aspects of their work, as they will lose everything that can be confusing.
“Most adults don’t want a pure leisure life,” certified financial planner Barbara O’Neil wrote in her book. “They crave a sense of purpose, meaningful daily activities and relationships, and the freedom to do what they want, even if that means continuing to work.”
Imagine a typical day
Retirement often begins with active activity when people travel, visit their families, and enjoy their favorite entertainment. However, retirement professionals are advised to imagine a more typical day after checking some of the activities in the bucket list. How do you spend every hour from the time you wake up? Who do you spend time with? How do you respond when someone asks, “What do you do?”
For example, O’Neill does not use the word “retired” to describe himself. Instead, she explains that she graduated from Rutgers University 41 years later as a professor and now owns Money Talk Financial Planning Seminars and Publications, writing and speaking on personal financial topics.
In fact, studies have shown that retirement work is associated with greater well-being. Part-time jobs can also help you gradually transition to retirement, says CFP Sherry Anne Eweka, senior director of financial planning strategy for financial firm TIAA.
“Some people are really stressed because it looks final,” says Eweka about retirement. “Consider working part-time to reduce employment, increase free time and get used to it.”
Retire for test drive
Before you quit your job, you might want to bring up a vision of retirement for a test drive, Eweka says. Consider spending two weeks on your retirement wishes, such as playing golf, traveling, volunteering, or caring for your grandchildren. If you plan to move to another area, you can rent a house there for a few weeks, if possible. You may find that reality meets or exceeds your expectations. If not, you can change the plan before committing, Eweka says.
Also, consider how to replace the social interactions that result from work. People with strong social ties tend to be happier, healthier, and live longer. By spending more time with family and friends, you can invest in your existing pre-retirement and post-retirement relationships. O’Neill recommends setting a date and time specified to connect on a regular basis, either directly or by phone or video call.
But aging also means that you lose connection as people die and leave. According to O’Neill, you can build relationships with new people by volunteering, joining community organizations, or getting to know your neighbors. Dating with dogs, cats and other pets can also contribute to happiness.
Without the structure imposed on the work, one day becomes blurry the next and some people begin to drift. O’Neill can regain his goals and sense of accomplishment by setting goals and taking steps to achieve them.
O’Neill began his post-Rutgers life by setting five goals. Actively participate in financial education. Foster friendships; “do lots of fun and new things”; stay healthy by walking 10,000 steps daily, eating healthy foods, and getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night. (It’s important to be aware of your physical health. In a 2014 Merrill Lynch survey, 81% of retirees cited health as an important factor in a happy retirement.)
Achieving concrete and measurable goals helps people redefine the concept of productivity. This is important for the self-esteem of many, says O’Neill. Goals also help offset the tendency to put things off.
People accustomed to savings and delays in satisfaction may have a hard time “switching on” to spending and enjoying their lives, O’Neill says. But time, health and energy are not infinite. Many in her 55+ community in Ocala, Florida, said she struggled during the pandemic not only because the plan was canceled, but also because of the keen awareness that the clock was ticking. Says.
“Not only was two years lost, but two years were good,” says O’Neill. “You don’t know how many things you have left.”
Liz Weston: How to Make a Retirement Worth Saving
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