People often feel overwhelmed by the idea of retirement. That can lead to putting off thinking and planning for their next phase of life.
Even those who feel excited about retiring can often experience anxiety if they do not have a plan to help them make a transition. Others struggle because their jobs are a part of their identity. And it gives them a sense of purpose and a feeling of belonging.
While we cannot predict the emotional impact of leaving the job and becoming a retiree, we can take steps and prepare ourselves mentally and financially for our next phase of life.
Step 1. Start preparing in advance.
Every life change or transition comes with emotional discomfort.
A lot of retirees only prepare for retirement financially. They are not aware of the emotional impact retirement can have on their lives. Preparing early is the best way to be ready mentally and emotionally.
Getting ready for retirement may be challenging at first, especially if you like your old routine and do not know what to do instead. But accepting that it is the next chapter of your life earlier can help you get ready better.
How soon you should start preparing for retirement? The time frame can be different for everyone.
You should begin making plans once you decide that you are ready for retirement. Keep in mind that preparing for a major life change for most people cannot be done within one week, or even one month. It is best to start preparing yourself mentally within 1-5 years before retirement.
Begin envisioning what you want your retirement to look like in about 5 years. Some people may want to keep working part-time. Some would prefer to volunteer or start their own enterprise. Many others would prefer to travel and explore the world.
Step 2. Personalize Your Plan.
Retirement is a huge transition. A big part of successfully transitioning to retirement is preparing yourself mentally for the emotions you will fill.
Knowing what to expect and planning things ahead of time will be a cushion as you transition from one way of life to another. Going from 40 hours working life to having all the time in the world does not happen overnight. It will be a transition. Make sure that you know what you want to do in retirement.
Hone your vision and create a detailed list of things that you really want from it. Some people will be happy to have no schedule and just sit back and go with the flow. Others need to have goals, commitments, and obligations to fill their days. Focus on what works best for you. Create opportunities that align with your needs.
Creating a retirement bucket list can be helpful to have goals and ideas so you can make the most out of your golden years.
Step 3. Check your finances.
Finances are one of the biggest factors when you mentally prepare for retirement. Going from earning a steady paycheck to living off your retirement savings takes a big mental adjustment.
Be realistic. Make sure you have a retirement plan that fits your financial situation. And that includes having a retirement budget plan for your dreams, activities, and projects.
One of the best things you can do to prepare for retirement is to reduce your expenses. Reducing your expenses before retirement helps you free money to pay off any kind of debt and mortgage or add to your savings right now.
Some simple ways to reduce your expenses include cooking more food at home and eating out less, cutting your cable bill by using streaming services, switching insurance providers, and more.
If you want to make sure that your finances are fit for retirement, get a realistic sense of what you will be spending in retirement.
The best advice is to create an estimated retirement budget based on your current and future expenses. You might have a general idea of what you are spending now. But you will be better prepared financially for retirement if you have a clear picture of your expenses now and how that might change in the future.
Your emotional and financial plans should be in sync. And if you want to have enough money in retirement, make sure your lifestyle matches your budget.
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- How to Retire Well on a Small Budget
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- How to Prepare a Retirement Budget in 5 Simple Steps
Step 4. Replace work routines with new routines.
One of the most common challenges in retirement is adjusting to the lack of structure that comes with not having a regular job. It may sound like a paradise but in reality, it can lead to boredom, loneliness, and even depression.
To be mentally prepared for your retirement think about how you want to replace your work routines. Our work gives us a purpose, identity, and steady routine. Many retirees go restless or feel lost when they go from a full schedule to an empty calendar.
Suddenly, you have a lot of free time on your hands. The loss of structure and routine in life can bring a sense of isolation and sadness. You need to find a replacement for your work routines. The transition from a structured work schedule to a more unrestricted one can be difficult to navigate. It will leave you feeling uncertain about what to do next.
Having a routine in retirement definitely has benefits. But how do you build that routine? The simplest way is to visualize what your ideal week would look like and then plan accordingly. Think about the activities that bring you joy, such as social activities, interests, and hobbies. And then schedule them into your week. Do not be afraid to stop and try something else if a routine or habit is not working for you.
A few ideas to add to your retirement routine:
- Create an exercise routine.
- Create a grocery shopping and meal planning routine.
- Create a routine for social connections and socializing.
- Set aside time for learning something new.
- Join a group or club.
- Try something new each week.
Step 5. Discover your new purpose in life.
Living a purposeful life can help you feel satisfied and content with your own life. This gives you a reason to look forward to each new day.
What most of us do not often realize is that the sense of purpose relates to our jobs and the many demands through our working years. This might have included raising a family, buying a house, paying off the mortgage, and more.
Retirement changes everything. Some new retirees feel a loss of purpose after leaving work. Their jobs provided structure, stability, and a reason to get moving each day. Those extra 40+ hours a week are not always easy to fill. Find a purpose in your retirement life becomes of paramount significance.
So, how to find a new purpose in life? Think about how to refocus your life by writing down your interests and things you want to do in retirement.
Many people find their purpose in doing meaningful work like being a volunteer while others might find that their purpose is to help family and friends. Some people find their purpose is going away on a spiritual journey or helping others on a similar path.
Think about who you want to be in retirement and ask yourself:
- What special talents or interests do I have?
- Do I have a dream that I want to pursue?
- What do I want to achieve?
- What skills I can use to benefit other people?
- Do I like to work at something I am used to, or would I prefer to face new challenges?
- What would I regret not doing if I die?
As you gather your thoughts answering those questions, you can begin to outline what your new purpose in life might be. Look at retirement as a time for exploring, developing new skills, and trying out new interests and activities.
Step 6. Discuss your plans with your spouse.
Many couples assume they share the same vision about their life in retirement without talking about it. But if you and your spouse or partner have different ideas, this can lead to conflicts and disappointment because you are not on the same page anymore.
Just like everything else in life, communication is critical here. It is important to discuss your plans and dreams with each other. The worst thing you can do is not share your plans until you are ready to retire.
Maybe your spouse does not want to retire at the same time as you. Or perhaps you want to move closer to your children and grandchildren, but your spouse has another plan in mind. Keep each other in a loop about your plans. Start this conversation as early as possible so you are all on the same page.
Another topic to discuss with your spouse or partner is how to manage matters at home. You need to talk about how to handle household activities.
If you are retiring together, you need to discuss how to handle alone time and together time. If you are the only one retiring, the transition can be tough because the roles are changing once you retire. Your spouse needs to get used to the fact that you spend more time at home. Also, you might be expected to do more household activities than you anticipated.
Step 7. Take time to process and adjust your emotions.
As I mentioned multiple times in this article, retirement is a major life change and a long process. Give yourself time to adjust to the new situation. Prepare yourself emotionally for the adjustment.
Accept that you will be sad for a little bit after retiring. Then make some plans to make yourself busy again and get comfortable in your new life.
Many people try to rush into other activities to escape from their real feelings of sadness. This can bounce back to you. Have realistic expectations. Make a list of what you can reasonably expect to do in the first weeks and months of retirement. Try not to stack your list with too many things to do. Remind yourself that you are allowed to adjust. Take it easy on yourself.
Retirement is a huge milestone in your life. Celebrate the beginning of it to make it memorable.
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