7 Things to Think About Before You Retire

And none of them has anything to do with money!

I have found hundreds of articles, websites and books about financial planning for retirement. I even wrote one of the books myself—Investing Starting from Scratch—but I’ve found precious little information about preparing psychologically. IMHO, investing in your psychological retirement portfolio is at least as important, if not more so, than investing in your financial portfolio.  Carefully considering the social and psychological aspects of changing your life roles can help you avoid emotional land mines so before you make the leap to the world of the unemployed, here are 7 things to think about that have nothing to do with money: 

  1. Make sure you are retiring for the right reasons

Are you really done with working?  Or are you just bored with your job?   Maybe all you need is a change. 

When we began our working lives, many of us drifted into fields that might not have been our first choice but we stayed because we had obligations and needed the money. Now you can focus on doing what you love.  Not sure anymore what that is?  Maybe this post will help get the creative juices flowing: How to Find Your Passion When the Honeymoon is Over.

  1. If you are part of couple, do you have a shared vision of life after work?

For better or for worse, retirement changes the dynamics in a relationship and I have seen more than one marriage on the rocks because people missed warning signs or were trying to steer in different directions. Working together toward a shared vision of life in retirement is the ticket to Harmonyville.

Some items to bring to the table:

  • What expectations are there on how you will spend your time?
  • Where will you live? 
  • Should you retire together?  Or separately?
  • What if one of you wants to quit but the other objects to that?
  • What if one of you wants to quit but the other wants to keep working? 
  • What if both of you want to quit but can’t afford to?
  • How much time do you want to spend together?

If you haven’t broached this subject with your significant other, here are some tips on making this a productive conversation: I Do, I Don’t.

  1. Are you ready to move to the social “R” list?

What’s one of the top 3 questions commonly asked when we meet someone new in a social situation?  After we get past exchanging names and a few personal tidbits, the next inquiry is usually, “What do you do?”  Much of our identity is tied up in our answer to that question and this is doubly true for men. Are you going to be comfortable responding you are retired?   And while we’re on the subject of socializing, are most of your friends also retired or retiring?  If not, who will you spend your time with?  [Hint:  If you think it will be with the gang at the office think again.]

  1. How is your health?

There is strong evidence that older people who continue to work enjoy better physical and mental health than people who stop working altogether. This seems to be true regardless of whether the work is full time, part time, temporary or if it is through self-employment.   At least one long term study concluded that people who continued to work live longer than people who were fully retired.

On that subject, how about healthcare? Are you currently eligible for Medicare?  If not, how will you insure yourself until you are?  You do plan to do that, right?

  1. Think long term.

Are you planning to move?  Or age in place?  If it’s the former, have you decided where you’re going and how much it’s going to cost?  If it’s the latter, is your house suitable for the time you may not be as mobile?  You may be the picture of health now, but what’s your plan if a time comes when you need help?  If you plan to depend on family, have you shared that piece of information with them?  Do you have a Plan B if you run out of money?

  1. Do you have a retirement lifestyle plan?

We need a reason to get out of bed in the morning.  Activity that creates a sense of purpose and gives personal meaning to our lives.  Without that, depression and decline often move in to fill the void. An unfortunate reality is that sometimes people stop doing much of anything except park in front of the television.  Watching too much TV will turn your brain to mush and it doesn’t do great things for your body, either.  Make sure you are retiring to something as well as from something.

Make a list of some things you want to do that will enrich body, mind and spirit and commit to following through by creating a schedule for activities.  Some ideas:

  • Get in shape.  Join a gym or an exercise group. Learn yoga or tai chi 
  • Take up a sport
  • Take a class or learn how to do something you’ve never done before like play an instrument, paint, organic farming.   Anything that interests you
  • Finish that degree.  Or get another one
  • Read the classics. Join a book club
  • Volunteer
  • Get a job.  One you really love this time.  
  1. Consider testing the retirement waters before you dive in

I know the idea of leisure-filled days is looking very attractive to you right now but is this a “grass is greener” mind set?   It may be possible for you to check out the other side of the fence before you leave your job by taking time off for a retirement “rehearsal.”  Spend your time on the days you are not working as if you are fully retired. Do the things you’re now dreaming of and live on the amount in your retirement budget.  Try to make the rehearsal last at least 2 months (the longer, the better) to really get a feel for it.

 Here are some ideas for ways to get that much time off:

  • Work part-time temporarily
  • Use that accumulated vacation time
  • Take a leave of absence for a sabbatical
  • Ask for flex time or see if you can work from home. If we’re honest about it we waste a ton of time at the office and you may find you’re able to get the same amount of work done in less time if you’re not distracted
  • See if you can share your job with someone else

I do realize that not everyone can afford to do this but if you can swing it it’s a great way to try out the lifestyle before you commit to making what may be an irreversible decision.

The new trend among baby boomers is less about retiring and more about reinventing ourselves.  Just because you can retire doesn’t mean you should.

Food for thought:

  1. What’s the main thing you look forward to doing in retirement? 
  2. What is your biggest worry about retiring?

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