How to Take the First Steps Into Retirement

Saving for retirement typically requires a lot of hard work and sacrifices. And leaving a job often means saying goodbye to co-workers who have become friends. But like every other transitional period, it is also the start of something new.

It is best to launch your retirement on a positive note. It makes sense to have a clear idea of what you will be doing on the first day of retirement. Retirement holds the promise of redirecting the rest of your life toward pursuits that stimulate your heart and mind. But setting up a fulfilling and engaging retirement often takes some effort. Before I take my first steps into my second act, I am considering the following questions:

Will I want to work part time? I know that I do not want to work full time during retirement, but part-time work deserves some consideration. Many retirees miss their interactions with co-workers. After spending eight hours a day with a group of people for years, strong bonds are often established. Finding yourself suddenly without these social connections can be a shock for the newly retired. I am open to part-time employment as long as it involves doing something I like or feel is worthwhile. A part-time job would get me out of the house for about four hours a day where I can engage with others, keep my mind sharp and bring in a little additional cash. On the other hand, life with no work also sounds quite attractive. I don’t have a definite answer to this question yet.

Can we retire in place? My wife and I have picked the spot where we want to retire. It’s a small community with lots of sunshine near a cozy downtown and a short drive to the coast. I would like to live here for a long time, but sometimes wonder if we will be able to stay here as long as we want. Baring some economic crash, we should be OK financially. We chose a one story home to avoid having to climb stairs. The community has a good support network for older folks including activities and public transportation. And there is always something going on within a walk or short drive. It’s a good idea to make sure your current home and community will continue to meet your needs as you age, and to have contingency plans in case your health declines.

What can I do to feel productive? I love the idea of relaxing and doing nothing. However, I also enjoy the feeling of accomplishment you get from doing something worthwhile. When I was working full time, my need to be productive was satisfied on a regular basis. But once retired, what will I do to find that same satisfaction? I plan to pursue a few avenues that help fulfill this need, including blogging, learning to speak (or at least better understand) French, taking a number of online courses and dedicating time every day to exercise and health maintenance. But will that be enough for the next 20 or more years? I plan to investigate volunteering, and we are considering living abroad for some period of time. Maybe I will take up painting or some other artistic expression.

What are my top 10 to-dos? If I want to get something done, I put it on a list. Before I retire, my goal is to have a list of the top 10 things I want to do now that I have the time. My hope is the exercise of generating the list will help me better identify what I really enjoy and how I can best spend my time. The beauty is I have the flexibility to add, delete or modify this list at any time. My list is a work in progress, but I do have a few options jotted down, including living in France for a month or two, writing a fiction novel, cultivating an awesome home garden where we walk outside to pick fresh tomatoes, apples and lemons and discovering the secrets of what entertains my grandchildren most. I have no grandchildren yet, but it sure is fun to imagine.

My wife and I want to take the right first steps when we begin our retirement journey together. We are trying to identify and cover all our bases ahead of time. For us, the key is to sustain an ongoing curiosity and willingness to explore new things. We hope our list can provide an overview while our imaginations fill in the blanks.

From my blog for US News & World

5 Ideal Ways to Spend Your Days in Retirement

Not so long ago retirement was viewed by many people as the beginning of the end. Upon reaching age 65, your days of being an active contributor to society were pretty much over. What lay ahead was a peaceful existence, free from stress and anxiety, that was filled with time to relax and enjoy memories of earlier glories.

For those of us fortunate enough to live the retired life today, the picture is very different. Today’s retirees are not satisfied with passively watching life from the sidelines. We finally have the time to do as we please and have plenty we still want to accomplish. Although we’re not quite as energetic as we were at 20, we are far from out of the game. Here are some of the ways baby boomers are choosing to spend their retirement years.

Renew family ties. Many of us had to sacrifice family time in order to fulfill the requirements of our careers. Our calendars and free time – what little there may have been – were rarely in our control. We sacrificed attendance at little league games and ballet recitals because the job required it. Although we cannot make up those missed swinging monkeysevents, we now have the opportunity to spend as much time as we want with those we love. We may have missed out when it came to our own children, but there can be a second chance when grandchildren arrive. This time around we can be front and center for important moments. We can be part of the picture instead of wistfully viewing photos after the fact. Hopefully, now that we have the time, our children will be able to fit us into their own busy schedules and commitments.

Pursue work you enjoy. Some people prefer to keep working in some capacity in retirement. For them the job offers excitement and challenge they want to sustain in later life. Many people also wish to continue experiencing the camaraderie found interacting with co-workers. A meaningful job can offer someplace to go each day with measurable results for effort spent. Older workers who are unable to stay at their current job are free to investigate a new career or pursue a passion they were unable to do while tied to a regular job. In retirement you have a greater degree of freedom to chart the course you prefer.

Populate your perfect calendar. In retirement you become master of your calendar. You get to choose how you spend your days. Some people whose earlier life may have been perpetually hectic may find themselves with a wide open calendar. The less booked you are, the more freedom you have to choose how to spend each day. However, you could also choose to fill in the blanks with various activities. But in retirement you are able to include only what you really want to be doing. Tedious meetings can be replaced with new travel adventures. Cocktail parties need only happen with people you actually want to spend time with. As keeper of your calendar, you only commit to what you want to be doing. You can schedule as much or as little as you choose.

Get better at something you love. In my retirement I am committed to spending more time playing the piano. Lessons from earlier years come back to me when I put in some practice time. In recent years, I have discovered a previously hidden affinity for Paris. As a retiree I am learning its history and practicing its language. My sister has a passion for yoga and is going through training so she can become an instructor. She plans to focus on those over 50. Your retirement can be a time to refocus on what you love.

Take time for you. Retirement is the perfect opportunity to set aside time for personal reflection. That elusive downtime we used to dream of is now within our grasp. But if you do not make a conscious effort and take appropriate steps, you may find the hours slipping by without doing anything you find worthwhile. While working it was not always possible to stop and take a breath. In retirement, the day’s activities are in your control, and it is up to you to take time for yourself.

From my blog on US News & World.