When it comes to retirement, it’s easy to dream about the perks like sleeping in, traveling, reading a good book, playing golf — name your fantasy. The reality can be far less fulfilling if you don’t plan ahead even if your retirement is fully funded.
Repeated studies have shown that people who do not have a rewarding retirement can suffer both physically and psychologically during retirement. Lack of mental stimulation is a primary reason. People may be forced into retirement before they are ready. Others think they are ready, yet are not prepared for the day-to-day realities of a new lifestyle.
Becoming a Sudden Retiree
“Sudden retirees” are those who ended up in a retired state because of unexpected events such as the merger or sale of a business, downsizing, injury, sickness, or the need to care for a family member. The experiences of these individuals might be a better “looking glass” for previewing your own retirement. Many of the people who have been cast into unexpected retirements are often still energetic and full of vision for their future.
Sudden retirees find themselves having to make many life decisions before they are ready. Ideally, we want to determine not only our financial needs, but our the psychological needs we’ll face at the retirement stage of life. We hear and read plenty on the financial aspects but not as much on the activity and existence facets of life.
Knowing the Potential Downsides
If you speak to retirees who did not plan ahead, you may hear, “First you’re bored, then you’re boring.” Staying both physically and psychologically healthy prevents both.
Working keeps you both interested and interesting. Working may also help you stay married. Divorce among retirees is surprisingly high. In couples over the age of 50, the rate has increased from 8 percent in 1990 to 25 percent!
The lesson here is that couples need space for relationships to grow and prosper, especially during the transition into retirement. Staying engaged and having outside pursuits — including work — is critical to both you and your partner’s health and well-being. Keeping your individual identity through the retirement process leads to a better sense of self-worth.
To avoid health issues interfering with your work-life expectations, pay attention to the factors that can impact your health, including excess body weight, tobacco or alcohol use, high-risk activities or behaviors, and chronic conditions. The takeaway? Take care of yourself!
Finding Your Way
Most of us recognize that the second half of life can mean a second wind – not just a breeze, but a gust to fill our sails. It is a time in life to contribute, learn, and try new things. Many of us are living longer than our parents and grandparents, so the bonus of extended middle age is still so new that we may have neglected to plan adequately.
How do you avoid the downside of retirement? Have a conversation with your friends and family about activities and pursuits that fulfill you and the things that concern you. Even if you’re forced into retirement sooner than you’d like, don’t ever quit on your intellectual, social, or spiritual advancements in life.
- Continue to work or volunteer, even if it’s part-time.
- Be a lifelong learner through additional education and training.
- Take care of your health to keep yourself vital until the end.
Look at your retirement long-term. Focus on what’s ahead of you, not on what’s behind. Many of us walk into retirement with rose-colored glasses and naïveté regarding the impact on our emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual needs. Knowing the dangers, pitfalls, and traps can keep you from being swallowed whole. You will be successful — without a doubt — if your retirement plan extends beyond what’s in your portfolio.