HOW TO PREPARE FOR RETIREMENT: A BEHIND THE SCENES APPROACH

There are countless articles that cover how people should save and budget for retirement. Undoubtedly, the suggestions those articles provide are important and potentially critical to sufficiently save for retirement. However, there is an entire other aspect of retirement that is touched on less often than the financial aspect of retirement. The emotional and mental aspect of retirement is discussed less but is just as important as the financial aspect of retirement. As a result, this article addresses what people should do to emotionally and mentally prepare for retirement so they can enjoy themselves and maintain a positive outlook on life.

Stay Busy. Once you retire, you will likely switch from a full-time, 40-hour a week job to a schedule with no set start time and no set end time. This might seem attractive to you pre-retirement and you will likely enjoy this freedom at first, but there is a strong chance you will become restless once the honeymoon period passes and the reality of retired-life sets in. For some retirees, this honeymoon period lasts years, while for others it only lasts weeks. The best solution is to find your own personal preferred amount of busy and plan your schedule accordingly. If you find you enjoy a routine that is booked from sun-up to sun-down, then schedule your days appropriately. If you prefer to spontaneity, then leave some time in your schedule to embark on your new adventures. If you are the type of person who is most productive when you wake up early, drink your coffee, and start in on your daily tasks, then set an alarm and keep to this schedule as best as you can. If you prefer to sleep in and tackle your tasks in the later part of the day, then plan your schedule so you do not have to wake up first thing in the morning. Regardless of which type of person you are, just remember that staying somewhat busy will likely make you feel better and more energized. If you provide yourself some predictability to your days, you will thank yourself later.

Remain Flexible. If you planed ahead as well as experts suggest, you likely started saving for retirement sometime in your twenties or thirties. Once you are around three to five years out from retirement, you should begin to think about what your schedule will look like after you retire. You may want to revisit this schedule a few times over the next few years and modify it as needed. Once you are about a year out from retirement, you should have your retired-life schedule planned. However, as we all know, life has a way of throwing us curve balls. As a result, you should remain flexible so if you need to adjust your retired-life schedule, you are able to do so without much stress. Even if life does not throw you any major curve balls, you may find that you simply do not find fulfillment in the activities you expected yourself to enjoy. If you come across this type of situation, step back and reassess your schedule. It is okay to modify it as you see fit and change your activities over the course of your retirement. Remember, this period of your life will likely last upwards of 25 years, so you need to find your way to enjoy it.

Be Kind to Yourself. If you are like most of working-America, you spent your life dedicated to a certain schedule and career path. You may have joined the workforce right out of high school or maybe you went off to college and completed graduate school. Either way, you spent anywhere between 20 and 50 years working away, week after week, month after month, year after year. Adjusting to retired life takes time, patience, and grace. It is not the same as taking a month-long vacation, when you know you must return to work at the end of your trip. Once you retire, that is it. You do not have to go back to work, unless you decide you want to, or you choose to get a part-time job. Consequently, you should remind yourself that you might not love retirement the way you expect you will love retirement. You might enjoy the freedom, but also feel a sense of hopelessness. In a moment such as this, be kind to yourself. All new adventures and all new lifestyle changes require you to adjust and find your new normal. Retirement is no different. Save this article and refer back to it when you feel down. Try to remind yourself that humans often find purpose in companionship, so phone a friend and schedule a lunch.

Maintain Self-Awareness. Many people who are anxiously awaiting retirement cannot wait to say goodbye to the mundane routine they followed their whole lives. Although spontaneity can be a positive thing, the loss of structure often brings about feelings of sadness and depression for many people. Remember to stay aware of this risk so if you find yourself feeling hopeless or sad, you might just need to reintroduce some structure back into your life. At the bare minimum, reach out to your doctor. Additionally, do not underestimate the power of social connection. If you feel alone, you might just need to increase your social circle. Start a new hobby, schedule regular outings with friends and family, or volunteer with a local organization. Whatever activities bring you the most joy and purpose, do them and do them often. You will be much happier in your retired life if you fill it with activities and people you enjoy.

Now that you are more emotionally and mentally prepared for your retirement, ensure your financial affairs are in order. Speak to your financial planner to ensure your retirement and social security will cover your expenses for longer than you plan to live because you do not want additional financial stress in this period of your life. Also, revisit your estate plan and ensure that you have a will, a durable power of attorney, a medical directive, and possibly a trust if needed. If you find you need these documents updated, schedule an appointment with an attorney as soon as possible so you can ensure your assets go where you want them to go after you are gone.

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