5 Ways to Finalize Your Retirement Plan

When your last day on the job arrives and you begin your journey into retired life, it would be nice to have some idea how the next 20 years will play out. Knowing potential pitfalls to avoid as well as what you will do to stay entertained promises a certain security and peace of mind most of us would appreciate. But too few people take the time or make the effort to prepare for their second act. It is easier to just get there and then try to figure it out as you go.

If we don’t take an active role in shaping our path, we cannot know for sure where we will end up. Here are some suggestions to help make your retirement work for you:

Know what is important. Having a clear picture of accomplishments you wish to achieve can help keep you on track. In retirement you will have more time to focus on family and build relationships with friends. Maintaining good health helps you to best enjoy your second act. Personal passions can be explored as long as you know what they are. If you are able to identify what is most important to your retirement happiness you can better focus your efforts on these priorities.

Accept there will be on days and off days. As with all other aspects of life, not every day in retirement will be perfect. The world around you may throw an unexpected curve, you may not feel physically on the top of your game or you may just have a temporary down-in-the-dumps moment. If you can learn to accept the ups along with the downs you will be better equipped to ride out momentary rough waters. They used to tell me in sales that every “no” gets you that much closer to your next “yes”. Maybe we can view retirement days in a similar way. Every down day gets you that much closer to your next up.

Identify your retirement lifestyle. Retirement is an opportunity to passionately explore the world free from the time constraints imposed by your career. With your newfound freedom you can be as busy and engaged as you choose. Or retirement can be a chance to slow down and enjoy a more predictable lifestyle savoring peaceful mornings and easy meandering days. Whether you are the type of person who must be busy all the time or if you find yourself happily enjoying downtime, it is in your best interest to prepare for a retirement that reflects your particular lifestyle.

Be selective with your time. When you first retire it is easy to find yourself looking for ways to fill in the empty calendar you have inherited. Keeping busy and finding worthwhile ways to use your time is important. But don’t make the mistake of over-committing your time before you have a chance to feel out the new situation. It can be easy to find worthwhile places to volunteer, courses to sign up for and projects to undertake. Suddenly you may find yourself overwhelmed and stressed out just trying to keep up. A better course of action is to gradually undertake activities to fill your day while allowing for downtime along the way.

Do what makes you happy. When it comes to making retirement work for you, I think the bottom line is to spend your time doing what you enjoy. Since there is no one to tell you what to do, there is nothing to keep you from doing what makes you happy. I have developed a simple routine to start my day. Once I have had a bowl of cereal and read through a few emails, I make a cup of freshly ground coffee. I pick up three of the books I am currently reading – one spiritual, one historical and one along the lines of Stephen King – and head to the backyard. Taking my place on a comfortable lounge chair I prop up my feet, appreciating the current flowers in bloom while keeping an eye out for the pair of hawks that hang out on a nearby radio tower. My two cats find their way out to join me and stealthily intertwine around my feet. Then I choose whichever book sounds most interesting for the moment. When I have read enough, I take out my iPhone and run through an interactive French lesson knowing I will revisit and practice the new session throughout the rest of my day. A little sunshine, some quiet reflective moments, happy cats at my feet, a boost to my French capabilities and a good 30-minute read is just the right way for me to start my day.

From my blog for US News & World

10 Components of a Happy Retirement

Financial preparations are an important component of any retirement plan. But money alone is not enough to live a satisfying retirement. Equally important is a plan to spend your time, develop relationships with others and maintain your health. Here are the important ingredients for you to realize the best possible retirement:

Enough money. Obviously, if you do not have enough saved and invested, you cannot realistically retire, at least not with the lifestyle you desire. But simply reaching a number in your retirement account is not the only aspect of retirement you need to plan for.

Having control over how you spend your time. One of the best things about being retired is the ability to decide what you want to do when you want to do it. This type of freedom is rarely experienced by those not yet retired. If you were to find yourself forced to live according to someone else’s expectations, retirement would be nothing more than an extension of your work years. But you get to leave behind other people’s rules as you begin to live your second act.

Spending quality time with family and friends. No longer finding yourself captive to boring meetings and meaningless interactions, you are now free to spend time with people you are actually interested in being with. And you are no longer limited to brief visits swinging monkeyssqueezed into a busy schedule. You have as long as you want to spend with whomever you choose.

Pursuing your passions, hobbies and interests. With the freedom to do as you choose, you can finally revisit the dreams and interests you were forced to put aside due to the demands of earlier life. And with enough interests and variety, you can prevent boredom and enjoy active stimulating days.

Giving back. Retirement can be your chance to express your charitable side and give back to society. Many retirees find volunteering to be a very rewarding experience. You are free to choose the causes most significant to you and make a difference in the lives of others.

Improving your relationship with your partner. Now that you have time to dedicate to the important matters in your life, the happiness of your spouse is an excellent place to start. You have time to spend with one another and rediscover the special person you fell in love with long ago. Although in some areas you may have changed over the years, some things never change.

Enjoying new experiences to broaden your horizons. You are no longer forced to live within the boundaries that defined the working you. The freedom to experiment and explore can open doors to interests you never knew you had.

Living a comfortable and safe life. Retirement is not always about searching for the next adventure. It also allows for the chance to relax, slow down and enjoy living at a pace more appropriate and comfortable for you. A balance between staying active and relaxing can keep you invigorated and ready for whatever comes your way.

Taking time for yourself. Downtime, the rarest of commodities for busy working folks, can now be yours in retirement. Taking time to think, relax, contemplate and dream can inspire you to live a more fulfilling retirement. Just remember that it is up to you to set aside the time and take advantage of your situation.

Maintaining good health. The freedom to do as you please affords the opportunity to refocus on healthy habits and practices. If you feel good it is easy to look forward to what the day has to offer. When it comes to healthy living, a regular routine that you can stick to can get you started in the right direction.

Assuming you are relatively satisfied with your nest egg and believe you can pay your way through retirement, it’s time to start thinking about the other aspects of retired life. In retirement you finally get the chance to do things your way. Make sure you include a plan for your health, relationships and passions.

From my blog on US News & World.