Retirement can be a scary thing. You wouldn’t think so, since so many people look forward to the day when they can stop working and take it easy. However, the financial and emotional adjustments can cause problems if you aren’t prepared for them. Most of us just blindly save money toward retirement thinking that the most important thing is to have enough money stashed away to keep from eating dog food for twenty years. While that’s important, it’s also a good idea to make some contingency plans for the other issues you might face.
The biggest problem is what to do with your time. Most of us can’t wait to quit working, but once we quit, what do we do? We say we want to travel, spend time with family, play golf, or just sit on the porch, but after a lifetime of work is that enough? It might be. Many people find retirement enjoyable. Or you might burn through your “fun” in a year and be stuck wondering, “What now?” The loss of a routine and feeling like you’re no longer contributing to something can be debilitating to those who haven’t seriously thought about their retirement activities.
To avoid this, try easing into your retirement. Keep working while you step down your hours or take a part-time gig. You can even quit your day job and start your own little business, either doing what you did before or something else you really enjoy. You’ll still have more free time, but you’ll also get to keep your daily routine and be productive. You’ll also keep earning money which can be saved or used to delay having to tap your retirement assets.
Keeping busy in retirement is essential to keeping yourself healthy. If you’re just sitting on the couch watching mind-numbing TV, you’re increasing your risk of disease and mental deterioration. Even if you don’t want to work, make sure you have enough hobbies and interests to keep you busy. Let your other interests and hobbies gradually crowd out your work rather than just quitting work all together. When the day comes that you want to quit for good, you’ll have enough other things to do to keep you occupied.
You can also opt to forego retirement altogether. A lot of people feel ashamed to admit that they actually want to keep working. Retirement has been built up as the holy grail and those who choose not to take it are often thought of as strange. After all, who wants to work forever? Well, plenty of people do. Work equals life for a lot of people. If you take it away, they flounder. Such people are actually better off keeping their jobs or moving on to other full-time ventures such as running their own business. Without a job, they get depressed, angry, or anxious. If this is you, don’t feel bad about keeping your job as long as you’re healthy enough to do it.
If you do retire completely, you can make the transition easier by sticking to a routine. It doesn’t have to be the same routine you had when you were working, but a routine can give your days structure and reduce the chance that you sink into depression and wonder what you’re doing with your life. Get up at the same time every day and try to eat at the same times, too. Construct your day as if you were still punching a clock. Use your mornings for exercise and chores, for example, and your afternoons for hobbies or friendly gatherings. A schedule can keep you productive and engaged.
Before you opt to tell your boss to kiss off and retire completely, make sure you’re emotionally and financially ready for it. You can have all the money you need sitting in the bank, but unless you’ve given a lot of thought to your retirement plans, you could be setting yourself up for a few years of confusion. Make sure you have a plan in place for what you will do with your time, as well as your money.
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