Are You Retirement Ready?
There are countless books, numerous online resources, and an explosion of companies ready and willing to help with retirement financial planning. But the financial aspects of retirement, while important, are only part of the equation. Emotional preparation and planning for this major life transition is as important as financial planning. Until you know what you want to do and the person you want to be in retirement, the pieces of your new life in retirement won't fit. And all the financial planning in the world won't prepare you fully for life changes linked to the retirement transition -- or for the unexpected. Perhaps the most important major adjustment in retirement is: to live fully with what is.
Begin by Questioning Yourself
Retirement experts recommend starting with numerous questions. Ask yourself what you most want to do in retirement and who you want to be after your long years of full-time work are over. Think about life priorities. Explore places to live. Imagine all the things you could do and interests you would re-discover in retirement. Retirement readiness is a key in making sensible choices about which trade-offs and limits work, and which ones don't work, for you.
So, if the economy has you wondering about your retirement future, it helps immensely to have a plan for retirement that makes sense emotionally. Then, whatever happens or doesn't happen financially, you can find a way to have a satisfying retirement.
Four Important Considerations
- Have a transition plan. How will you structure your life once you retire? Particularly, when your identity is very much tied in with your work, it's especially important to have a transition plan. Think very specifically: what aspects of yourself and your interests do you want to explore once you retire? Start pursuing these before you retire, if possible, to fine-tune your plans; and decide what is going to work best for you. Remember, it’s paramount to examine these needs through the prism of what is. Are you prepared to live on less? What can you do without?
- Have a clear vision of how and where you want to live. Do you need to be near family and see them on a daily or weekly basis? Do you want to break away from the familiar and explore a whole new area and lifestyle? Have you and your spouse discussed candidly what it would mean to each of you to relocate? Have you tried out new locations in all seasons? It's important to experience a retirement spot in the most challenging, as well as most attractive, seasons. It's also vital to ask yourself if a relocation decision is being made with your own independent plans and interests in mind. Planning to relocate in order to be closer to adult children and grandchildren can be risky. Some retired individuals have adult children who have had to relocate away by necessity in a challenging job market and they are left living in a place they may or may not have chosen, on their own, to spend their retirement years. Some find that life near the kids isn't what they had imagined when they pulled up stakes. Their kids have lives of their own and their parents, while dearly loved, are not necessarily at the center of their lives. Some parents deal with this shift well at close range-- but some don't.
- Know that retirement can greatly impact your marriage. Even long, stable marriages can be shaken by the changes that retirement brings. Planning your lives together and apart is an important part of retirement readiness. Do you envision doing some things on your own and some things with your partner, or do you hope for constant togetherness? According to Dr. Phyllis Moen, Professor of Sociology and Human Development at Cornell University, the transition from working to retirement is both stressful and emotionally difficult for most couples. In her research, Dr. Moen found that while retirement itself was a happy time for couples, the transition (defined as the first two years after leaving a job) was a period of marital strife for many men and women.
- Keep your expectations realistic. Sometimes reality will exceed your positive expectations, and, of course, sometimes your expectations will be altered by reality. Remember, life's ups and downs continue to happen even after you retire.
Evaluate Your Emotional Preparedness
Want to evaluate your emotional preparedness for retirement? The HealthQuest Employee Assistance Program offers a Retirement-Ready Coaching Program that can help. Call confidentially 24/7 at 1-888-275-1205 (option 7).