What are Some Tips to Think about When Preparing for Retirement?
Retirement is a luxury our great-great-grandparents never dreamed of. Around the turn of the century, the average life expectancy was 47. People quit working only when they were too ill to keep going. Retirement for them signalled the end of life, not merely the end of working life.
Today, 70 percent of people will celebrate a 65th birthday, and the fastest-growing part of the population is comprised of those 85 and older. People spend more years in retirement than they do in childhood and adolescence combined. The challenge now is to spend these years in the most satisfying and fulfilling way.
Some people picture retirement as a time to slow down, to be less busy, whereas others see it as a time for increased activity. As with any major life change, retirement brings its share of mental and emotional adjustments. Depending on how you deal with it, retirement can be an exciting time filled with new opportunities and challenges or a painful transition that results in boredom, lack of purpose and discouragement.
Research has shown that people who stay busy with hobbies, active social lives or even part-time work, live longer and feel a lot better than those who camp out on the sofa.
PLANNING YOUR RETIREMENT
Retirement will be a time for some honest self-examination. Before making specific plans about your post-retirement life, gather information and do some 'big picture' thinking.
Examine your own purposes in retiring. Why are you doing this? What are your dreams?
Collect ideas and facts from friends or relatives who have already retired, or read about the subject in books, articles, or on-line. You will need to sift and organize this information to evaluate what is relevant to you. Look for general principles and advice that seem realistic.
Consult with your spouse or partner and others who will depend on you or support you.
Consider your financial realities. What savings do you have? pension plan? other income? How will your financial resources last over time?
MAKING THE PLAN
As you get into the specifics of your plan, these are some things to consider:
Location Where will you live? What do you want in terms of climate, lifestyle, housing, proximity to family or friends?
Financial Plan Develop a financial plan that will take into account your new needs and/or economies. For most people, the mere fact of leaving work does not change their expenditures much, apart from transportation and wardrobe costs. What can make a big difference is selling a house or opting out of an expensive lifestyle that includes entertaining club memberships, or travel. As income, take into account your pensions (including C.P.P. and government old-age pensions), any investment or interest income, and R.R.S.P.s. Estimates of expenditures should take income tax changes into account, and include strategies for minimizing tax and claw-backs. An accountant or financial planner can provide you with information that will help.
Working Will you continue to work in some capacity? A growing number of people are not fully retiring at 65. Rather, they retire from a 40-hour workweek to a shorter schedule. Retired bankers and accountants, for example, find themselves in huge demand at tax time. They probably wouldn't dream of going back to the daily grind, but they enjoy using their skills - as long as they can do it on their own terms. Your decision about work may depend partly on financial needs (see item above). Do you need and prefer to work for some income, and would you want this to be part-time, or as a consultant, or in some entirely new venture? If income is not essential, there are many interesting volunteer opportunities available.
Activities Consider the variety of different activities that you could pursue and make some tentative choices. Some of your choices should be based on your passions, and some on the knowledge that certain activities will be 'good for you', promoting long-term health and well-being (such as physical and social activities).
Physical activities Some people enjoy active pursuits such as golf, hiking, skiing, swimming, gardening, etc. already and plan to increase these activities once they have the time. Others will have to make a point of involving themselves in something new. Seniors' Centres and community centres provide a wide range of options for physical activity for older adults-- exercise classes, dancing, yoga, Tai Chi, and aquatic exercises, to name a few. They may also offer classes for people dealing with specific health challenges, such as osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and breast cancer.
Social activities Staying involved in relationships with other people is often cited as a major determiner of well-being in older adults. Most people benefit from having a variety of relationships and social activities, from those involving partners and close family to friendship networks to community groups.
Special Interests Even before retirement, many of us have special interests or hobbies that we enjoy-- things like photography, travel, painting, bird-watching or gourmet cooking. Extra time for such interests should certainly be part of retirement planning. For other people, it may be time to try out something you have always thought you would enjoy or something you used to do years ago.
Intellectual/Mental Activities Engaging in some mental activities, such as reading the newspaper or doing crossword puzzles, seems to be beneficial in keeping your faculties sharp. Beyond this, many people enjoy learning new information or ideas or engaging in intellectual activities. Reading, joining a book club or discussion group, attending community lectures, or taking courses in an unfamiliar subject can broaden your interests and intellect.
Artistic or Creative Activities Many people already engage in artistic or creative pursuits-- painting, singing, woodworking, sewing, or playing a musical instrument-- before they retire. Others wished they had the time to learn. For some, these pursuits become the focal point of their lives after retirement.
Meditative or Spiritual Activities Activities that encourage meditation or an altered sense of awareness include yoga, listening to music, relaxation exercises and experiences of solitude and/or natural beauty. For many people, this is a way to reduce stress, reach a state of calmness and replenish their spiritual reserves. Others are spiritually nourished in a faith community, where they can participate with others.
Contribution Activities Studies that address the hierarchy of human needs suggest that most people are happier if they are involved in and contributing to 'something bigger than themselves'. Knowing that we are adding something to our neighbourhood, an organization, our country, our world, or some worthwhile cause we believe in can increase our sense of self-worth and well-being. Retirees especially may feel ready to 'give something back' or to leave a legacy for future generations.
Schedule and Revise Consider a tentative weekly or monthly schedule of activities. Remember that you will need some balance in your week. Now you are ready to adjust your plans as you assess how things are going, while staying open to new ideas and opportunities.
IDENTIFYING AND COMPENSATING FOR LOSSES
Satisfaction of exercising competence and expertise: People in difficult, demanding jobs are often gaining a great deal of fulfillment from their demonstrated ability to perform complex tasks that display knowledge, experience and competence. It may be difficult to duplicate this sense of satisfaction once you have left the job, but creative thinking about the problem can probably help you find alternatives. Can you consult or advise others, teach a course, or apply your skills to a volunteer organization?
Relationships: The workplace is where adults tend to make most of their friends. Nearly all retirees initially find themselves missing the social connections at work and struggling to find replacements. Loneliness is among the leading causes of depression in older adults and making new social relationships is a primary task of retirement. Most people benefit from having a network of different relationships. With the loss of companionships at work, some people try to fill the void by suddenly shifting to over-dependence on one or two personal relationships (with a spouse, partner or adult child) after they retire. Consider the roles that different types of relationships play in your life.
After retirement, what will your needs be?
Intimate relationships: Whether this is a sexual relationship, with a spouse or partner, or a friendship or family relationship, most people desire a close, intimate connection with another person who will share their life.
Socially focused relationships: These have the primary purpose of enjoying and sharing social occasions together -- holidays, dinners, movies, parties, sports, dances, or evenings of conversation. Such relationships may involve family members, friends, work colleagues, or fellow members of community or faith organizations.
Team relationships: Some relationships are focused on working together to accomplish a goal. Without the task to address, such relationships would be aimless and diminished. The workplace often includes such relationships, and it may be the sense of team accomplishment that people miss most after retirement.
Mentoring/Nurturing relationships: By the time people retire, they have probably taken on the role of mentor or 'teacher' to younger colleagues. There are usually some opportunities within the family or community to form this kind of relationship with younger people, to help them learn from your lifetime of experience. If this is a type of relationship that you find fulfilling, you may need to search out such opportunities.