It may be a few years away or a couple of decades down the road, but it’s never too early to begin planning for how you’ll live your best life in retirement. Shifting your mindset from worker to retiree may not be the most natural transition. Here are a few tips on how to prepare for a full and happy retired life.
Get Your Finances in Order
Not too long ago, I was able to interview money guru, Chris Hogan, and get his professional advice on how to financially prepare for retirement. Hogan told me that one of the biggest mistakes people make, in retirement planning, is depending on the government to care for them in their old age. He said, “If you’re relying on Social Security to fund your retirement dreams, you’re setting yourself up for disaster. Instead let [your Social Security income] be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.”
If you don’t want to be a burden to your children or live in poverty during your golden years, do everything you can right now to get your finances in order. If you’re in the U.S., a Roth IRA (individual retirement account) is a wonderful retirement savings option. Other countries have similar tax-free savings account (TFSA) programs that you can open to save money for retirement. If you work for a company, check to see what they offer in terms of retirement savings accounts and take full advantage of any matching investment programs. Ideally, you should be funding your retirement savings accounts with at least 15 percent of your gross income every month.
Of course, it’s best to start saving for retirement when you’re in your twenties. But many of us didn’t. The important thing is that you start saving right now and continue up until you need to stop working. Hogan gave some other important advice to help our readers fiscally plan for retirement. If you’d like more information on the financial aspect of retirement planning, check out our full article here.
Volunteer With All Your Heart
When you’re trying to keep food on the table, clothe all the kids and save for family vacations, volunteering may not be high on your list of priorities. In the past, your passions and community-minded ventures often have had to take a backseat to more practical endeavors. In retirement, things are different. You’ll have more time during the day to find something that truly excites you, allowing you to pour your heart into it.
Maybe you love animals and you’d like to spend time with pups at the shelter who need companionship. Perhaps you have a soft spot for babies and would like to volunteer to hold and rock premature infants at the hospital. If you enjoy being around little kids and toddlers, your local library might have a few openings for you to host storytime.
If you’ve got professional skills, there are other ways to give back. You can volunteer to help folks with financial planning, legal advice, or income taxes. If you enjoy working with other benevolent folks, you can put together an outreach program for low-income families in your community.
Start looking now for organizations that need volunteers. If you attend church, that’s a great place to start. Check with your pastor for volunteer opportunities. The local YMCA, any nearby hospitals, the library, and community centers are also often looking for passionate volunteers. Choose a cause that you care about and make plans to jump in just as soon as you can ditch your day job!
Join a Club
What do you like to do for enjoyment? There are organizations all around you that are full of people who have interests similar to yours. Do you like reading fiction? Consider joining or starting a book club at the library. Are you into fitness walking? Search online for a walking group in your area. If you enjoy fixing up old cars, there are entire communities of folks who live and breathe car restoration. They would love to connect with another car buff.
If you don’t have any current hobbies, think about some of the things you used to do for fun. Were you into model cars, baking, rock climbing, or crochet when you were younger? Have you always wanted to learn to paint or get to know which birds are native to your area? Is gardening something you always wished you had time to enjoy? Now’s the time to take up one of those hobbies or sharpen your skills and pass your knowledge onto others.
Joining a group of other people with the same interests can truly enhance your life in retirement. It may feel a little awkward at first, but when you join a group of like-minded people, you’ll make instant friends and have some exciting events penned on the calendar that you can’t wait to attend. You’ll be able to learn more about one of your favorite things and offer your perspective as well.
Find a Way to Improve Yourself
This may seem like an odd suggestion for someone planning to retire but stay with me here. You’ve got a unique opportunity in retirement to step back and work on yourself a bit. I’m not talking about the outward self, but the inside. Do a bit of self-examination to find areas in your life where you can improve. How’s your diet? What are your reading habits? How well are you communicating or relating to others?
Bonnie Lais of Portland, Oregon, was 67 years old when she decided to make a huge change for the better. After living most of her life eating a pretty average diet of animal-based, processed foods, Lais had developed thyroid disease and an autoimmune condition. Lais said, “At the same time, blood tests showed that I was pre-diabetic and would need to be on insulin soon. Boy, that got my attention! I knew that any medication would bring possible side effects. So, I decided to attack the problem naturally. I read as much as I could about changing my diet to a more natural one.” Lais became a vegan in retirement and has drastically improved her own health over the past few years. Her thyroid, autoimmune system, and blood sugar? “Perfect,” she said. “And all because of my diet.”
In retirement, you’re awarded some precious time to yourself. You can spend it binge-watching seasons of Breaking Bad while your muscles go limp, or you can do better things. Consider implementing a regular exercise routine complete with strength training. A mentor of mine, in her mid-70’s, is in the best shape of her life because she started spending daily time at the gym when she was in her 60’s. Her impressive, chiseled physique has shown me that it’s never too late to build strength and endurance.
Another way to improve yourself is to learn a new language. Most public libraries offer some excellent free online language courses. Or teach yourself to play the piano with free videos on Youtube. By retirement age, you’ve likely done loads of self-examination and fine-tuning, but there’s always room for more improvement.
Consider Your Living Situation
Look around your home. Are you living in a house that fits your needs? Are you in the part of the country or the world where you want to live out the rest of your life? If the answer to either of those questions is no, perhaps it’s a good time to find a Realtor and consider listing your home so that you can find something that suits you better in retirement.
Many retired folks hold onto the family home because it represents so many memories and good times. However, cleaning three bathrooms, navigating the stairs, and maintaining the landscape may be a burden in retirement. If you’re living in a two-story, four-bedroom home and you really only need a one-bedroom bungalow, consider making a change.
If you’re currently living hundreds of miles away from beloved family members, or you’d just rather live out in the country instead of in the middle of your bustling city, those are other reasons to consider a move. Radio Psychotherapist Dr. Laura Schlessinger often asks her callers, “Is this what you want between now and death?” It’s a rather blunt question, but definitely one worth considering when you’re preparing to live a full and happy life in retirement. Schlesinger’s question is also a reminder that we don’t have much time left here on Earth. We may as well enjoy the life we have and live the life that’s best for us.
Stick to a Routine
After a few weeks of enjoying the freedom of not having a nine to five, it’s best to get back into a routine. It can be as basic or as complex as you like. Daily, consider things like getting up at the same time, making the bed, getting dressed, and spending some quiet time reading, writing, praying, or meditating.
Weekly, try to have some routine happenings as well. How about walking with a friend on Monday and Wednesday mornings? Or make a standing coffee date with a neighbor for the same day each week. Attend a weekly group fitness class or support group.
Throw in a few monthly activities like hosting a movie night with your grandkids every first Friday or inviting friends over for dinner one Sunday a month. Keep routine items on the calendar. It’s easy to get stuck in solitary and sedentary ruts when you don’t have to be anywhere every day. However, you’ll stay in a good mental state when you’ve got regular, routine events to anticipate every day, week, and month.Retirement can be a lonely, boring experience or it can be one of the fullest and most rewarding times of your life. You get to choose. When you give up working, it may feel like a loss. However, you’ll actually gain a myriad of new opportunities to grow and thrive throughout your golden years. Be intentional about living your best life in retirement.
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