Maybe you anticipated retirement every morning when the alarm went off at 6:30 am. Or, maybe you’re reaching the age where retirement enters the planning horizon brought on by letters from AARP and Social Security with updates on your retirement account. Whatever the reason, the time is now to begin preparing for an active retirement. Looking at the image above, you see Pearl’s vision of retirement isn’t all that active.
So, let’s think about how to prepare for an active retirement. First, let’s think about how life changes with retirement:
- You lose your income and, if retiring before 65, you lose your insurance
- You no longer have something taking up 40-60 hours/ week
- Family shrunk to just you and maybe a spouse
- The family home might be too large now
- Regardless of your current situation, health declines are inevitable
Preparing for an active retirement
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint), much is written about preparing for an active retirement, but focuses almost exclusively on financial planning.
The focus on financial needs post-retirement probably comes from the wealth management industry of brokers and advisors who rely on you for their living. The more you save for retirement, the more commissions they make, and, while it might seem enticing to retire with $1 million or more in your 401K, you don’t really need that much. Especially when you consider that life expectancy beyond age 65 averages only about 15 years, although life expectancy may be as little as 18 months for some professions. And, don’t forget that many seniors have substantial equity in their homes, adding to their retirement nest egg.
Certainly, financial planning is important when you retire, but it’s not the MOST important thing.
A bigger issue in preparing for an active retirement is figuring out what to do with all the extra hours in a day. Think about it — you got up early for decades, went to work often surrounded by colleagues, and raised families. Only to retire with little to do with all the hours stretching in front of you. Without careful planning, you likely face a future of boredom and loneliness.
My aunt complains of boredom and laments giving up her job, even though she worked well after 65 until bad knees made it impossible to be on her feet so much. She lives in the same community and has family in the area, but everyone has their own life, so she spends most of her days surrounded by her cats, and the television kept on for noise.
To avoid boredom and loneliness now is the time to plan for activities to fill your days.
- Learn a hobby, especially one that involves other people, such as golf or bridge.
- Begin volunteering somewhere you can make a difference. Look at former President Carter who still builds homes for Habitat for Humanity well into his 90’s. Schools always need folks to help with reading or other activities.
- Check out the local senior center for activities. Many allow you to join before you’re retired
- Think about transitioning to retirement by working part-time or less for your existing employer or in a similar field
Your family likely is on their own now. And, as time goes by, you’ll lose your spouse. For many years the needs of your family filled your days, taking kids to soccer practice, going to school plays, meeting other moms at kid’s functions …
Now, all that’s gone.
So, how to fill that void. Folks like my neighbor fill their time babysitting their grandkids, something that works out well for their kids and them. However, as you age, keeping up with kids’ demands may challenge your strength and calm. So, think about ways you can stay active in the lives of your family. For instance, a friend reads bedtime stories to her grandkids every day via Facetime (an app on her iPhone).
Nows the time to think about downsizing your home. Maybe before you sell your home, think about getting rid of big, bulky furniture and things you never use. After all, you won’t be cooking and serving meals for a crowd anymore. Give unneeded objects away to charity or to help furnish your children’s homes. I’m sure they’ll appreciate whatever you don’t need.
You likely have many sentimental objects taking up space. Think of creative ways to save the memories without the bulk. For instance,
- Turn a beloved children’s blanket into a square on a new blanket filled with other cloth memories, like a piece of a stuffed animal your child slept with every night.
- Organize photos, and eliminate some less important ones. Do you really need 30 photos of your child’s graduation? Then, transfer them to digital format.
- Donate books to a second-hand shop or a library. You’ll never re-read most of them anyway. Besides, reading from an e-reader allows you to enlarge the print for easy reading, thus containing 1000s of books in a compact form.
- Knick knacks accumulate dust and clutter up your home. Get rid of them.
The time is now to ensure you have a healthy retirement. Get enough sleep, drink a lot of water, and do something active every day, even if it’s only taking a walk. That’s where Pearl is a big part of my retirement planning. Every day we walk, getting in our 10,000 steps around the neighborhood or exploring trails in the area. Increasingly, communities plan for these low-impact spaces great for walking without all the hills that make hiking difficult. The more active you are now, the more active your future retirement.
OK, enough for today. Enjoy your day.
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See you back here soon.