After you retire, your daily life will change in more ways that you probably imagine. There are many changes you won’t realize until you experience them, but forming a clearer picture of your values and how you want to live your life after you retire will help you make better plans and adapt more easily to the changes retirement brings. It will also give you a clearer picture of what you can look forward to.
The questions that follow will help you sort these things out. If you’re married or partnered, these are good conversations to have together. You shouldn’t assume that your spouse wants the same things you do.
- What does being retired mean to you? Of course, it means not going to work. Beyond that, you may look at the next chapter of your life as the next big adventure or you may see it as a giant chill-out. While it’s fine to decompress for a few weeks or months after you retire, sooner or later you’ll want to get on with your new life.
- What do you want to add to your life and eliminate from your life? Aside from no longer working, you may want to decrease or eliminate your involvement in professional associations, boards, or other obligations. You may wish to cancel housekeeping or landscaping services and take on those tasks yourself – or vice versa. You are now free to engage in only those things that truly bring value and enjoyment to your life.
- What are your travel plans? This is a multi-faceted question that includes how much time you hope to spend traveling, where you want to go, and how you want to get there. Your travel plans may range from exploring the world to simply visiting friends and relatives. You may decide to become a snowbird.
- What will you be passionate about? Once you no longer have to focus on your career or raising children, your interests and priorities may change dramatically. Think about what will excite you and give you things to look forward to. If you haven’t been focused on anything other than your career and your family, you will need to find something new.
- Is it important to be close to your family? If you live away from your family, think about how often you will want to visit them and how often you hope they will visit you. Keep in mind that although you will have a lot more time on your hands, other family members may still be busy with their careers. If you have grandchildren, consider how much you’re willing to serve as a babysitter.
- Do you want to remain in the community where you live now or move somewhere else? Many people dream of moving to a warmer climate or a favorite vacation spot near a lake or in the mountains. But it’s important to consider whether your new location has the businesses, services, and recreational and cultural amenities you will want for your day-to-day life. You’ll also be moving away from many of the people who are most important to you.
- How do you feel about downsizing? In addition to considering the pros and cons of moving to a smaller house, think about how many possessions you are willing to get rid of and what you definitely want to keep. You and your spouse may have very different opinions on this issue.
- How structured or spontaneous do you want your life to be? While you might eagerly anticipate freedom from your tightly-structured work day and you may look forward to waking up each morning without an alarm clock, you will probably find that living a totally unstructured life isn’t as enjoyable as it sounds. Some structure helps ensure that you will do the things you want to do and keep your life on track.
- Do you plan to start a business after you retire? This doesn’t have to be a business in the traditional sense; it can mean anything you pursue that produces income, such as selling crafts or artwork, consulting services, or becoming a paid writer, musician, or public speaker.
- What activities do you plan to engage in? Hopefully, you are looking forward to retirement as a time when you can do many of the things you didn’t have time for while you were working. You’ll want to coordinate with your spouse to find the right combination of solo activities, things you will do with your spouse, and group activities.
- What do you want your social life to look like? After you leave work, socialization doesn’t happen as easily as it did before. You will have to take a more proactive role in keeping in touch with your friends. It’s a good idea to choose some activities that will expose you to new people. Staying socially engaged is extremely important after you retire in order to avoid loneliness.
- Which people in your life are most important to you? Think about how you will stay engaged with them after you retire, especially those who continue to work. If your circle of friends consists mostly of work colleagues, you may be surprised by how quickly those relationships fade. Similarly, if you move after you retire, you will have less contact with your current friends.
- What new things do you want to learn? Many seniors stay mentally engaged by continuing to learn throughout retirement. The best part is that you can focus on whatever you are interested in and not worry about exams and grades.
- What’s on your bucket list? Having a list of things you want to do and places you want to visit is great, but in order to actually accomplish them you will need to set some dates and make some concrete plans.
- What will provide a sense of purpose for you after you retire? If you relied heavily on your career accomplishments for purpose and fulfillment, you may experience a feeling of emptiness after you retire until you find a new source of satisfaction.
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- Do you want to be of service to others in some way, such as volunteering or mentoring? If you envision retirement as being entirely about relaxation, leisure, and fun, you may discover that you still value the reward and the sense of purpose that comes from helping others. Mentoring or teaching is an excellent way to share your knowledge with others.
- Do you want to spend all or most of your money on yourself or leave a nice inheritance to your beneficiaries? There’s no wrong answer to this question, but it’s important to be on the same page as your spouse. You may be surprised to learn that your heirs hope that you’ll spend your money on yourself.
- How do you want to be remembered? After you leave your working career, you will probably realize that your professional accomplishments such as awards, promotions, and an impressive job title don’t matter as much. You may find that the impact you have on other people and what you contribute to the world matter a lot more.
Thoughtfully answering these questions will help you to envision a future filled with exciting possibilities and give you a clearer picture of what you want for the rest of your life.
©2017 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.
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