How to Find Tune Your Retirement Plan

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 Retirementrole 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

Easing Into Your Retirement Role

Getting good at being retired is a process. Only a lucky few are able to flip the switch from work to retirement and smoothly make the transition. New members to this growing club rejoice in the freedom to do as they want and explore a new world without limitations foisted upon them by demanding careers. But the new lifestyle they are about to commence is just that: brand new. Never before has what happens during each day resided solely in their control.

New retirees must assume responsibility for replacing what was until now an organized schedule of daily activities. Duties on the job dictated how you spent your hours. Once you leave that behind, no one but you will populate your calendar with worthwhile activities and commitments. The freedom to occupy yourself as you see fit also comes with the challenge of selecting meaningful ways to spend your time for the foreseeable future. It is not just about next month, but rather next year and many years after that.

It is not uncommon to feel a hint of guilt about your sudden freedom and newfound ability to choose how you spend it. Most of us lived through hectic careers and lifestyles where spare time was an elusive commodity. Over scheduled working people have little time to waste and constantly search for ways to boost productivity. Now in retirement, that burden is lifted. You get to do what you want. But it can take time to accept that it is now OK to pursue something just for the fun of it. Imagine doing nothing at all without remorse. I still sometimes find myself at the end of the day tabulating where I “productively” spent my Cool seniortime, hoping to identify something worthwhile. I am beginning to realize I now define what is worthwhile, and somewhere near the top of the list is being happy.

One on one time with your spouse is about to get top billing as the two of you become a retired couple. You will no longer be separated by individual careers, and will now be able to spend as much time together as you want to. But don’t think that long weekends alone or occasional vacation travel is an accurate representation of life spent together every day. You and your spouse could potentially be together 24/7. It can be truly wonderful to have quality time to share, but maintaining harmony over the long term takes effort. Your journey will be smoother if you allow for alone time to pursue individual interests. If you do not have a lot of shared hobbies you may want to search for a new activity you can do together. Allowing for a little space and a willingness to try new things together can help the transition into this new phase of marriage to go more smoothly.

One of the best aspects of retired living is the incredible variety of activities and interests we are free to explore. I have discovered a renewed interest in learning about history and art, something I glossed over in my youth and never had time for until now. By watching courses on the Internet, reading books I now find interesting and traveling where my heart desires I continue to broaden my knowledge. You may decide to explore new ways to maintain physical fitness, learn a new language, upgrade your house, garden or express your artistic side. Retirement can be the perfect time to be as curious and creative as you want.

Making the transition from the working world into retirement is not as easy as it may sound. Some people find it difficult to step away from the need to be constantly productive. It’s important to have a plan for how you will spend your days once you leave your job.

From my article for US News & World