The majority of retirement planning advice focuses on how to save enough money to replace your salary.
However, employment delivers us much more than just money. What we do gives many of us a sense of meaning, achievement, and even identity. Work also provides social ties and a structure in our days.
Losing all of that may be unsettling, which is why experts — including those who have already retired — advise planning ahead of time for how you’ll replace those aspects of employment.
In her book “Flipping a Switch: Your Guide to Happiness and Financial Security in Later Life,” Barbara O’Neill, CFP, claims most adults don’t want a life with total leisure. According to her, they desire a sense of purpose, filled with meaningful days and healthy relationships, and the freedom to do whatever they want, even if that means to keep working.
PICTURE A TYPICAL DAY
A bustle of activity frequently marks retirement as retirees travel, visit relatives, and engage in their favorite activities. However, retirement experts advise picturing a more regular day once you’ve completed some of your bucket list items. From the moment you wake up, how will you spend every hour? With whom would you spend your time? What will you say if someone asks you, “What do you do?”
O’Neill, for instance, doesn’t describe herself as “retired.” Instead, she says that she retired from Rutgers University after 41 years as a professor and is now the owner of Money Talk Financial Planning Seminars and Publications, where she writes and lectures on personal financing.
Indeed, studies suggest that working in retirement is linked with greater happiness. Part-time work may also help with your gradual transition into retirement, according to CFP Shelly-Ann Eweka, senior director of financial planning strategy at a financial company TIAA.
Some individuals get extremely worried about retiring since it seems final, Eweka says. Think about working part-time to have less work and more leisure time so you can ease into it.
TAKE RETIREMENT FOR A SPIN
Before quitting your job, Eweka suggests taking your retirement vision for a spin. Consider taking a two-week vacation to do something you want to do in retirement, like golfing, traveling, volunteering, or caring for the grandchildren. If you intend to relocate to another area, you should consider renting a property there for a few weeks, if possible. This way, you can find if reality meets or exceeds your expectations. If not, you may change your plans before committing, according to Eweka.
Think about how you’ll replace the social interactions you make at work. People who have strong social connections are usually happier, healthier, and have longer lives. Spending more time with family and friends might help you invest in existing relationships before and after retirement. O’Neill suggests setting aside specific days and times to meet regularly, either in person or by phone or video chat.
However, as you age, you’ll lose connections since people die or move away. According to O’Neill, volunteering, joining community groups, or simply getting to know your neighbors better may help you meet new people. Companionship from a dog, cat, or other pet can also help improve one’s well-being.
LIVE WITH A PURPOSE
Without the framework of employment, some individuals begin to drift, with one day blending into the next. Setting objectives and working toward them can help restore a feeling of purpose and accomplishment, says O’Neill.
O’Neill began her post-Rutgers life with five goals: finishing the book she was working on, remaining active in financial education, cultivating friendships, doing a lot of fun and new things, and staying healthy by walking 10,000 steps daily, consuming nutritious foods, and getting at least seven hours of sleep every night. Taking care of your physical wellbeing is critical, as indicated in 2014 Merrill Lynch research, showing that 81% of retirees named good health as a vital element for a happy retirement.
According to O’Neill, achieving precise, quantifiable objectives can help people reframe their idea of productivity, which is essential to many people’s feeling of self-worth. Goals might also help counter a tendency to procrastinate.
People accustomed to saving and deferred gratification may have difficulty “flipping the switch” to spending and enjoying their life, says O’Neill. However, time, good health, and energy aren’t limitless. Many individuals in her 55+ community in Ocala, Florida, struggled during the pandemic, she says, not just because their plans got canceled but also because they were acutely aware that the clock was ticking.
It wasn’t simply two years gone; it was two good years, adds O’Neill. You can’t know how many of those you have left.