When you ask most people if they are retirement-ready, the answers you get will probably include a lot of numbers. Most people have put a lot of thought into their savings strategy, expenses, withdrawals, and inflation. They may have even factored increasing healthcare costs into their budgets.
While getting the math right is crucial to retirement planning, it’s not the only thing you should be thinking about. To get retirement right, you have to think beyond the numbers. You need to figure out how you’re going to live your life. If you haven’t considered this or if you’re not sure where to start, here are five questions to ask yourself before you retire.
1. Who are you now?
Most people identify their personalities with their careers. When someone asks you what you do, your first response is probably to tell them what you do for work. You might say, “I’m a nurse” or “I’m a teacher” or “I’m an accountant”. But when you’re no longer working, who are you? Are you just a retired nurse or teacher or accountant? Of course not! There’s much more to you than that.
After retirement, you have to create a new version of yourself. Maybe you already have a hobby that you’d love to explore further or maybe you’re looking forward to exploring new things and finding something that you live. Retirement is the perfect time to rediscover yourself and find a passion for gardening or painting or reading that you might never have had before. Then, when someone asks you what you do, you can say, “I’m a gardener” or “I’m a bookworm” or “I’m an artist”.
2. What are you going to do today?
Seems pretty simple, right? But when you’re used to the same workday routine you’ve had day after day, year after year, shifting to a new one can be tricky. For most people, the daily demands of their careers dictate their daily routines. You set your alarm depending on what time you have to leave to make it to work on time. Maybe you get up an hour or two early if you want to squeeze in a run of a trip to the gym.
How will you fill this time when you no longer have to worry about getting to work on time? Many people have big plans to travel or visit family when they retire, but you’re not going to do these things every single day. What about the ordinary days when there are no big adventures happening? How will you fill that time?
It’s easy to fall into a routine of sleeping in, watching TV all day, and not participating in things that are rewarding or fulfilling. How can you spend your time enriching yourself and making sure you get the most out of every day?
3. Where will you find your worth?
Some people are very motivated by success at work. If you’ve spent your career climbing the corporate ladder and found fulfillment and purpose in what you did every day, it might be difficult to transition to life without it. Promotions, raises, and awards may have motivated you to keep going, but what will you do when those things are gone? Retirement doesn’t offer a lot of accolades of affirmations, so you have to look in other places for this type of validation.
Seek out something to master or a place where you can get this type of validation if you need it. Start a board game night with your friends or sign up got a pool tournament to give yourself a challenge. Take an online class in something that interests you and study to ace the exams. Many people thrive when they have a mission and feel accomplished when getting a good grade on a test or joining a new team. If you need accomplishments to make you feel worth, there are many ways to seek them out.
4. Where will you make friends?
Making friends as an adult is difficult, but making friends as a retiree is much more so. Work is an easy place to socialize, meet new people, and plan gatherings. While you may promise to keep in touch with your coworkers, things change and life gets busy. These relationships take work to maintain, and without the common workspace and shared stressors, it’s not always possible. Loneliness is one of the worst parts of retirement, and it can actually affect your health. Before you retire, put some thought into how you plan to meet people and build and maintain new friendships when you don’t have the water cooler chats or employee happy hours to look forward to.
5. How will you make your current relationships stronger?
Retirement is a huge life change, and it’s no surprise that it affects relationships. Spousal relationships are especially vulnerable to this change. When spouses retire, they often begin to spend more time together than they ever have before. How can you adjust to these changes while strengthening the relationship? Without careful thought and planning, some relationships fizzle out in retirement. Rather than growing closer and learning new things about each other, this period becomes a time of stress and anxiety. What can you do to make sure you and your spouse aren’t one of the many couples over 65 who file for divorce?
They’re your golden years. Make the most of them.
Most people only consider the financial aspects of retirement, but there are other things to think about. How will you spend your days? Do you want to seek out clubs to join to stay socially active or enjoy the quiet time and learn a new skill? After all, the numbers and interest rates and portfolios aren’t really what retirement is about; they’re only a means to an end. Think about these five questions and start planning your adventures.