When we begin our retirement journey, we do not always know exactly where we are going. Since this is a new beginning, we have little experience to reference. And although we may have some general ideas about what is ahead, there is a certain mystery enshrouding a lifestyle we have not yet experienced firsthand. As a result, our second act is often a work in progress where we learn as we go.
No longer are the day’s activities laid out as was the case while pursuing our respective careers. Back then, each day had clear objectives, and we kept busy getting it done. But as we shift gears and enter retired life, that familiar guiding hand is no more.
We want to get retirement right and avoid any delay in enjoying what we have worked so hard to realize. Here’s how to do a realistic examination and fine tune your retirement plans:
Take a closer look at how you spend your days. Now that you are retired, you get to choose what you want to be doing. One of the great attractions of retirement is realizing the freedom to decide how to spend your time. Rather than dread what you have to do, this is your chance to focus on what you enjoy. To best take advantage of your newfound liberty, set aside some time to understand how you spend your hours and days. See if what you are engaged in is what you really want. If not, what would you rather be doing? Try to remove any clutter or distraction that stands between you and what you enjoy. Prune away whatever is not enhancing your retired life to make room for new growth and experiences.
Revisit your budget once you are actually living in retirement. You probably ran the numbers a variety of times before making the move to retire. Comparing your expected retirement income to your projected retirement expenses can help you establish a level of comfort before retiring. Once you have spent a few years living as a retiree, you may want to revisit those numbers to do a reality check. Perhaps you underestimated the amount you spend on travel or are not eating as much food as you originally planned. A little fine tuning reflecting how you are actually spending can help keep you within acceptable bounds.
Have fun with it or move on. Coping with the inconveniences of aging is likely to be a big part of your retirement years. As we grow older, simple things that used to require minimal effort can begin to present challenges. But that is no reason to relegate ourselves to the role of observer. We can still play the game, albeit maybe at a slower pace. We can still travel, explore, experiment, engage and try new things. Don’t put off until tomorrow the grand plans you could begin on today. Retirees have the free time and flexibility to make the best of the moment. And since we are in control, there is no need to continue with something we no longer enjoy. If you are not having fun with what you are doing, turn the page and move on.
Stay on course to where you want to be. Not everyone has specific goals they hope to achieve in retirement. But most of us would like to avoid wasting the next 20 years of our lives. Maybe we would like to make improvements to the person we are, perhaps chiseling away at bad habits that have dogged us over the years. Or we may desire to add to our knowledge or experience in a particular area. Keeping track of progress toward your targets helps maintain a focus that can improve your chances of getting there. If you know where you stand, you can tell how close you are getting to what you want.
Remember you are the boss. Friends and family may have thoughts about how retirement should play out, which is just fine when it comes to their own retirement. But well-intentioned advice about how you should live your retired days should be taken with a grain of salt. Listen politely and incorporate what makes sense to your situation. Don’t get pressured into doing what you do not want to be doing. Getting to retirement has been a long trip. Now that you are here and control your future, it is time to take advantage of your ability to do as you please.
Written for US News & World