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What Do You Expect from Your Retirement?


Photo: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

By Melanie Hardie Senior financial consultant at LifeWorks

Many of us work to prepare financially for the day that we will stop working. However, it's also worth taking time to think about the unique needs you may have so that you can be emotionally ready for this major life change. What do you expect of retirement?

Develop your own vision of retirement. Remember that there are no "shoulds." Put aside ideas of what retirement meant in the past and focus on what you would most like to do, even if your ideas differ from those of other people.

Keep your expectations realistic. Allow yourself at least a year or two to adjust to retirement. No matter how carefully you plan, you may face surprises. Some may be bad, such as health concerns or the loss of friends or relatives, while others will be good, like the start of a new friendship, new interests, or a new hobby.

Look for role models. Think about the people you know who have had an enjoyable and rewarding retirement. What are they doing? How did they get there? Ask them to tell you how they have continued to pursue their goals and dreams in retirement.

Define your needs. What motivates you to do your best at work and elsewhere? Do you need challenging projects? Intellectual stimulation? Opportunities to help others? Look for ways to meet these emotional needs as you plan for retirement.

Ask friends and family what they could see you doing. Talk about your ideas for the future. Your friends and family may point out strengths you could use later or see personality traits that you don't. If you tell friends you want to sit on a beach every day and they say you would be bored in a week, think about their reaction. Are they saying that because they would be bored? Or are they saying it because they can see that you have a lot of energy that needs a constructive outlet?

Set positive goals for later life. Avoid saying, "I don't want to sit around the house all day" or "I don't want to live thousands of miles from my grandchildren." Instead, define what you do want. You might say, "I want to stay involved with a youth sports team" or "I would like to live within an hour's drive of our children."

Explore opportunities to keep working after you retire. If you will need more income or if you get a lot of emotional satisfaction from work, start now by looking into opportunities to work part time, start a business on the side, or launch a second career. This will give you time to get any necessary training or education.

Try out a retirement lifestyle. Make a list of things you would like to do or places you would love to visit. Then live out that "retirement day" on a Saturday. Try taking a longer summer vacation to see how you like having more free time. Or consider renting the kind of home you might like to have after you retire. Trying out some of your ideas can help you decide whether to pursue them further.

Develop enjoyable routines. Work helps you structure your days, so you'll need to find ways to organize your time after you retire. Try developing a few routines that you can look forward to daily, such as cooking, exercise, a pet, hobbies and creative interests, visits or calls to family and friends, and quiet activities that can ease your stress, such as prayer or meditation.

Attend pre-retirement events. Sign up for retirement-planning programs offered by your employer, industry, or professional associations. These may offer many helpful ideas on adjusting socially and emotionally to retirement. You may find similar programs at community centers, libraries, adult-education programs, and extension services.

Remember that you are more than your job. You have a life and an identity apart from your work. If you need help with finding that identity, you may want to talk with a counselor or a life coach who specializes in life planning or retirement issues. A coach can help you explore options and develop a plan of action for a successful transition to retirement.

This is an excerpt of an article published in 2019, and is one of hundreds of articles on Lifeworks available to RPB participants and members of their households.

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