We all work so hard to prepare for our retirement. We do everything we can financially – save, invest, plan – to make these years truly golden. While working towards our financial freedom is a worthy and necessary endeavor, don’t forget to plan for that newfound personal freedom, too.
Think about it. Most of us work between 40 to 50 hours a week at our jobs. Say you have a half hour commute each way. Now we’re talking between 45 to 55 hours. The time we spend on work during our careers can average 180 to 220 hours a month. That’s 2500 hours or so per year that are booked up and out of your control.
So, what will you do when you don’t have someone else scheduling your days? While many of us imagine unlimited freedom, happiness, and purpose, the reality is that some people have a hard time transitioning from a structured lifestyle to one of complete leisure.
Here are the top five issues that newly-minted retirees face.
1. The Financial Piece
First things first – let’s talk money. One stressor that may crop up in early retirement is that, after years of earning a paycheck, your income stops. Of course, you’ll likely have income from investments, Social Security benefits, a pension, etc., but many folks find themselves worried when their steady employment checks go away. And, you and your spouse, while partners in retirement planning, may not be on the same page about your post-career budget and spending.
There are several solutions to this issue. If you and your partner aren’t seeing eye to eye, take the time to communicate until you reach common ground. And, if you’re both stressed about the lack of work income, consider taking a part-time job. Instead of jumping feet-first into full retirement, you could enter The Grey Zone instead – a time when you’re partially retired. With all of the expertise you’ve amassed during your career, you should have no trouble finding some consulting work or the like, and bringing in some extra cash.
2. We are creatures of habit.
Humans typically struggle with change. And retirement is a huge life change. There will be ups and downs along the way to finding your happy place. The key is to understand that retirement, like anything else in life, is a process. If you think you’re going to hop, skip and jump your way through this phase of life, you may experience a bit of disappointment.
Maybe you loved your job and your coworkers were like a second family. Saying goodbye can be difficult. Downsizing out of the home where you raise a family can also be challenging, even if you’re moving into the house of your dreams. No matter the case, be sure that you give yourself the space to know that you are going through a transition and that some days will be easier than others.
3. We are creatures of structure.
For many of us, having a jam-packed schedule is easier than having no schedule at all. When you retire, you make your own schedule. Every day. There is no boss to report to (except your spouse, maybe!). Deadlines are mostly a thing of the past. Your time is your own, and it’s up to you to create a structure.
The happiest retirees regularly engage in the hobbies and activities they love. I call these endeavors “core pursuits,” and the research for my book, You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think, uncovered that happy retirees have an average of 3.6 core pursuits, while the unhappy lot has only 1.9. It doesn’t matter what you do – volunteering, singing in the choir, painting, taking college courses, or playing tennis. What matters is that you have core pursuits and that you schedule and do them. Filling up your time with the things you love, sets you up for a truly happy retirement.
4. But not too much structure.
As you structure your days, remember that there is never enough time to “do it all” – not even in retirement. We don’t retire so we can move at 100 miles per hour. We want to relax and enjoy life. If you find yourself overscheduled, give yourself permission to trim some things from your to-do list.
5. Our priorities tend to stay the same.
Understand that Retired You is still You. You’ll likely continue doing the things that have always brought you joy, like golfing and spending time with the grandkids. That’s one hundred percent okay.
Don’t let your dreams and aspirations for retirement become guilt-inducing burdens. Just because you always thought you would volunteer more in retirement or travel to Katmandu doesn’t mean you have to do those things. Instead, look at this time as one where the world is yours, and you can explore it and interact in it however you choose. Just take it one step at a time, and you will be well on the path to a happy retirement.