Some retirees succeed at realizing the life they want; others don't.
Fate aside, it isn't merely a matter of investment decisions that make the difference. There are certain dos and don'ts – some less apparent than others – that tend to encourage retirement happiness and comfort.
Retire financially literate.
Some retirees don't know how much they don't know. They end their careers with inadequate financial knowledge yet feel they can prepare for retirement on their own. They mistake creating a retirement income strategy with the whole of preparing for retirement, and they gloss over longevity risk, risks to their estate, and potential health care expenses. The more you know, the more your retirement readiness improves.
Is the goal to retire debt-free – or close to debt-free?
Even if your retirement savings are substantial, you may want to consider reviewing your overall debt situation.
Retire with purpose.
There's a difference between retiring and quitting. Some people can't wait to quit their job at 62 or 65. If only they could escape and just relax and do nothing for a few years – wouldn't that be a nice reward? Relaxation can lead to inertia, however – and inertia can lead to restlessness, even depression. You want to retire to a dream, not away from a problem.
The bottom line? Retirees who know what they want to do – and go out and do it – are positively contributing to their mental health and possibly their physical health as well. If they do something that is not only vital to them but also important to others, their community can benefit as well.
Smoking, drinking, overeating, a dearth of physical activity – all these can take a toll on your capacity to live life fully and enjoy retirement. It is never too late to change habits that may lead to poor health.
Retire where you feel at home.
It could be where you live now; it could be a nearby place where the scenery and people are uplifting. If you find yourself lonely in retirement, then look for ways to connect with people who share your experiences, interests, and passions, those who encourage you and welcome you. This social interaction is one of the great, intangible retirement benefits.
A successful retirement is not merely measured in financial terms.
Even those who retire with small fortunes can face boredom or depression and the fear of drawing down their savings too fast. How can new retirees try to calm these worries?
Two factors may help: a gradual retirement transition and some guidance from a financial professional.
An abrupt break from the workplace may be unsettling.
As a hypothetical example, imagine a well-paid finance manager at an auto dealership whose personal identity is closely tied to his job. His best friends are all at the dealership. He retires, and suddenly his friends and sense of purpose are absent. He finds that he has no compelling reason to leave the house, nothing to look forward to when he gets up in the morning. Guess what? He hates being retired.
On the other hand, if he prepares for his retirement years in advance of his farewell party by exploring an encore career, engaging in varieties of self-employment, or volunteering, he can retire with something promising ahead of him. If he broadens the scope of his social life so that he can see friends and family regularly and interact with both older and younger people in different settings, his retirement may also become more enjoyable.
The interests and needs of a retiree can change with age or as they disengage from the working world. Retired households may need to adjust their lifestyles in response to this evolution.
Practically all retirees have some financial anxiety.
It relates to the fact of no longer earning a conventional paycheck. You see it in couples who have $60,000 saved for retirement; you see it in couples who have $6 million saved for retirement. Their retirement strategies are about to be tested, in real-time. All that careful preparation is ready to come to fruition, but there are always unknowns.
Some retirees are afraid to spend.
They fear spending too much too soon. With help from a financial professional, they can create a strategy.
Retirement challenges people in two ways.
The obvious challenge is financial; the less obvious challenge is mental. Both tests may be met with sufficient foresight and dedication.
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