We know the feeling well. You’re still working full time, yet retirement is drawing closer every day. The idea of no longer working full time used to seem so strange and so distant – yet now, as more and more of your friends retire, you find yourself counting down the days with a mix of eager anticipation and looming dread. Retirement is like the Great Unknown. How can you adequately prepare for something you’ve never experienced?
The Retirement Transition Sounds Heavenly to Some, Horrible to Others
Fortunately, you’re not alone in your mixed feelings, as this insightful article from NextAvenue reminded us. It’s called simply, “Tips on How to Transition Into Retirement,” and we like the gist of the article because it takes an honest approach to the fact that retirement, with its promise of unlimited free time, can sound appealing, but for some it’s a difficult transition. “After a long time spent in the workforce, retirement can feel like the great unknown,” says the article. “Unlimited expanses of free time sounds like heaven to some people. For others, all they see is a difficult transition period marked by stress, uncertainty and grief.” After talking with several retirees about their experiences, the authors found that, “with a little guidance and some insight, transitioning into retirement can be the smoothest change you ever make, no matter what you think about it at first.” The article then goes on to offer what it calls “Seven Tips for Making the Move into Retirement.”
We should say right up front that these tips aren’t the same as steps in a retirement plan – they’re really more about preparing yourself mentally and emotionally, and for that reason we share them more as helpful food for thought. (We’ll share our recommendation for true retirement preparation, which we call LifePlanning, in just a moment.) But before we take a look at NextAvenue’s seven tips to prepare for retirement, it’s helpful to remember that there is a true “retirement wave” currently underway. You’ve probably noticed that there’s a horde of baby boomers out there who are hitting the end of their full-time work lives right alongside of you – an astonishing 10,000 every day, in fact. (That figure has been corroborated numerous times including in this Washington Post fact checker column from a few years back.) If you’re a boomer contemplating retirement, you have plenty of company.
Seven Tips to Smooth the Retirement Transition
So with that in mind, let’s get back to the NextAvenue article and those seven tips. Here’s a brief summary – check out the article here for more details:
- Plan for a longer transition period than expected. You need to cut yourself some slack and expect a few ups and downs. “You’ve never done this before,” says the article. “Inevitably there’s going to be some trial and error until you get this just right.” Whether it takes weeks, months or years to get used to retirement, it’s your transition, not somebody else’s.
- Give yourself a breather. The article suggests scheduling a mini-vacation as you enter retirement so you can “take a moment to breathe.” By taking a week or two to relax before you jump into your new routines, “you’ll be better prepared to approach your new life with a clear mind that’s well-rested and ready for the challenge.”
- Prime your brain to see this as a new beginning. This mental preparation is an important component in a healthy transition. “Rather than seeing retirement as the end of your career, view it as the beginning of an exciting new phase in your life,” says NextAvenue. This “mind-shift” can include reading retirement-related articles, talking to current retirees about their experiences, taking classes you’ve always wanted to take, or pursuing volunteer opportunities. “There’s so much more opportunity out there these days for older Americans,” says the article. “It’s just a matter of doing your homework and finding out which activities will appeal to you during this new beginning.”
- Work on getting fit. This should be a no-brainer, but it’s a vitally important suggestion. Committing (or recommitting) to a healthy exercise routine (with your doctor’s approval, or course) reduces stress, builds self-confidence, and benefits every aspect of your life from attitude to cognitive ability. You’ve always intended to exercise more, right? Now’s your chance.
- Maintain friendships. “Your life is about to be upended by your oncoming retirement,” NextAvenue “You can keep one thing constant to ease the stress, however, and that’s your social network.” Friendships reduce stress and provide emotional support, and having a strong social network has been shown to improve physical and mental health as we age. But don’t count on maintaining those workplace friendships one you stop working. “If you’re short on friends because you’ve lost your social network at work, join groups or classes. Shared interests make good friendships, so choose a class or group that’s centered around doing things you love.”
- Build a strong mental foundation for change. Retirement represents a huge transition, and it can be one of life’s biggest challenges. Paraphrasing NextAvenue’s words, you’re going to re-create your sense of who you now that you’ve given up your job title. This means you’ll need to develop a strong sense of identity, nurture (or create) a strong social network, and discover a strong personal mission and purpose.
- Remember to chase your dreams. Retirement isn’t an end, but a beginning, says the article. “The best way to ease yourself through the transition to retirement is to always remember to chase those dreams” and to “rediscover the world through a new lens.” In other words, be an exploring optimist, not a timid pessimist!
The Retirement Transition is Really about the Right Retirement Plan
What’s our answer to the puzzle of retirement preparation? Rajiv Nagaich of AgingOptions says we can’t allow fear of the unknown to paralyze us. “No matter how old you are or what your circumstances,” he emphasizes, “a solid retirement plan is the answer. Even if you worry that you aren’t prepared or don’t have enough, a LifePlan can show you the way forward toward a better retirement than you thought possible.” Only a LifePlan from AgingOptions weaves together, not just your financial strategy, but all the essential elements that matter most, including legal, housing, health and family. With a LifePlan prepared, fear of the future can be replaced with confidence and a sense of optimism about the new chapter called “retirement.”
If you’re ready to find out more, we invite you to join Rajiv at an upcoming LifePlanning Seminar – a great way to begin the New Year. To see a calendar of these popular free events, visit our Live Events page and register for the location that works for you. It will be our pleasure to greet you and to share with you and your loved ones the power of an AgingOptions LifePlan. Age on!
(originally reported at www.nextavenue.org)