Tips to Help Your Transition Into Retirement

When I took the leap to join the ranks of the retired I thought life was going to be a breeze. All of the tough stuff was behind – right? The kids were in general independent and having families of their own. The house was pretty much paid off. I felt confident stress from the job would soon fade to a distant memory. And I had a ton of hobbies and projects I was just itching to get to. How difficult would it be to spend my days doing what I wanted rather than what someone told me to do?

It did not take long to discover the switch from full-time-employee to full-time-retiree is not without its own challenges. I was a novice at the retirement thing, a first timer with no history to look to for guidance. The retirement my parents live is from a different time and although they are very happy the vision I had for my own second act was not the same as theirs. Right off the bat I felt guilty if I did not keep myself occupied every moment. I had learned in the working world never to waste one precious minute lest an important deadline fall into jeopardy. Old habits can be difficult to overcome and I struggled to evolve. Then I faced the dilemma all retirees will one day confront when asked at a party “What do you do?” Without my career to fall back on I was caught off guard. What exactly does the retired Dave do? How should I spend my free time in some worthwhile way?

That was four years ago. Since then I believe I have gotten better at this retirement thing. It takes work but I figure there is no better way to spend my time now if I hope to make the best of the coming decades of retired living. Here are a few thoughts that helped me more smoothly transition into retirement.

Adjust your intensity to fit your new lifestyle. Now that you are retiring, you are free from any stressful job requiring 100 percent of your focus 100 percent of the time. The only deadlines you face are those you set. Your transition can be easier if you calm yourself and learn to find a pace that you are comfortable with. Concentrate on the journey rather than the individual steps. In the initial days of my retirement I often found myself kicking into a higher gear when doing simple things like gardening or cleaning the house. Rather than relax in the moment and enjoy the activity I pushed myself to get it done quickly and efficiently – just like the boss always wanted. But there was no more boss. It took serious effort to recondition myself. I had to realize there is no hurry. Not everything must get done on a schedule. Now I sweep the deck slowly, patiently, enjoying the nearby oak trees and savoring my freedom. It still gets done only at a pace that suits me.

Couple on the beach

Give yourself time and space to get there. Don’t be in a hurry to get somewhere you have never been before.  There are no more deadlines. Realize you answer to no one other than yourself. Don’t pile on unnecessary pressure to immediately achieve. If what you do is pleasing to you it is worthwhile. Cut yourself some slack – you have earned it. You are not the first person to retire and I would venture that few newbies get everything right from day one.

Channel efforts toward what you can control. No one can entirely control what life might throw our way. That does not mean we cannot influence our future. Retirement is the right time to focus on what is good for you. You finally have time for you. You finally have time to figure out an exercise regimen that you can stick with for your good health. You have time to work on that diet to make you fit not fat. You have time to explore the multitude of activities to engage your mind and heart and passion. Rather than focus on what you cannot do try to imagine what you can – and go for it.

Don’t hide what you are feeling. This is a new chapter in your life. You should not expect it to proceed flawlessly. There will be frustrating moments to cope with. But you are not alone. It is not healthy to hide or try to ignore feelings that cause you concern. Remember giving advice to a child or friend encouraging them to share what distressed them? Talking about it can help. That was good advice – good enough to follow yourself. Facing difficulties alone can feel overwhelming especially for those retired. We no longer have co-workers to lean on, children are out in the world living their own lives, everyone always seems to be so busy. It is often up to each of us to take the initiative to open up and begin the healing process.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to keeping busy.  With decades of retirement life ahead, one hobby or golfing every day is not going to make it. Variety is the spice of life even more so in retirement. The more options you have to entertain and engage you the less likely you are to become bored. Rather than bored we hope to find ourselves excited about what the new day has to offer. Don’t be afraid to try something – anything – to stir things up. What do you have to lose?

Being retired should be fun so don’t wait too long to dig in. Take advantage of the fact you will never be younger than you are today. Do those things now that down the road may become too demanding. Cut yourself some slack but don’t allow yourself to watch life from the sidelines. As long as you are healthy enough to get out there and play, join the game and enjoy. That’s what retirement is all about.

5 Keys to Choosing the Best Place to Retire

Making the commitment to relocate once you retire is a big decision. With a roll of the dice you risk leaving behind all that is familiar and comfortable from that hole-in-the-wall local bakery to the car repair shop you trust to those neighbors who have in some cases become part of the family. Yet for many the call to move after they retire is strong. Some consider relocation in an effort to downsize now that the kids are out the door. For others the old neighborhood is changing so much that it feels like it is time to move on. Still others are looking for a new adventure to launch their second act. Whatever your motivation, finding that perfect place to call home can be one of the most important decisions you will make.

After almost three decades in the Bay Area, my wife and I recently pulled up roots and moved to a new area to retire. Before ultimately hitting the road we did our due diligence. We considered numerous states before settling on California where we currently reside. Then we studied likely regions across the state until we drilled down to a handful of candidates. Next we carefully researched the areas and visited multiple times to get a feel for neighborhoods and local amenities. Along the way we agreed there were certain things we required in a new home and neighborhood – our must haves.

Close to amenities that matter

Now that you are retired you have time to do what you really want to do. Part of the successful relocation equation is to put yourself near those things you love. For us walking distance to the local downtown was a biggie. Get your daily exercise while discovering the best restaurants and shops and meeting the locals. It is wonderful to stroll to your favorite coffee shop where you are greeted by the quirky owner who entertains you with endless stories while creating the perfect cappuccino to start your day. As you get older nearness to local medical facilities becomes increasingly important. Having qualified people you know and trust nearby makes life easier and safer. Access to public transportation can be a big plus greatly expanding your range of activities should driving become challenging. And for me it was important to be close to the beach where I imagine the retired me patiently wandering the coastline with waves booming as salt air mists in my face. With a bit of careful planning retirement can be a time to surround yourself with what you love.

Couple in Canoe

Supportive environment

Different neighborhoods cater to different people. Finding an area sensitive to the needs of seniors is a worthy consideration if not necessarily for this moment but rather down the road. Shuttles to get around, organizations to engage with, volunteer opportunities to donate time, pet friendly restaurants, all little things that can make retirement living more enjoyable and fun. Living near others of similar age and interests and background helps make for a smoother transition and quicker assimilation.

Variety of local attractions

Years ago a boss of mine shared his view that living near a college town was high on his list of must haves. “There is always something going on and the energy of the students keeps you young.” Having multiple options when it comes to local attractions is important. If you are hikers finding a retirement location near parks and mountains and oceans can be just the ticket. Should nightlife and the theater be your thing access to a big city is important. You need not necessarily live in the city just within a reasonable distance. If you like to travel consider where the nearest airport is located. We found ourselves in a newly developing relatively unknown wine region with a handful of tasting rooms within walking distance, handy when visitors show up at our door. The more activities available in your backyard the better equipped you are to avoid boredom.

Good weather

My wife thrives in sunshine and I have to admit as I get older I like the cold less and less. We love hiking on a sunny day through the woods and neighborhood so sunshine was a big part of our final relocation decision. We have friends who love to ski and so nearness to snow is an essential part of their retirement destination. There are even those who love the rain. When it comes to weather we all have our preferences. The key is to choose a retirement spot with weather that maximizes what you love and minimizes what you can gladly do without.

Age friendly design of the house

The house you retire to can be your friend or occasionally your enemy. While stairs are a non-issue when you’re twenty aging knees may rebel if required to ascend to the bedroom each night. The convenience of a single story home will be appreciated down the road. Little things also make a difference: cabinets with drawers allow access to things stored in the back; shelves not too high up; good lighting throughout; efficient heating and cooling to maintain a comfortable temperature; easy to use appliances that don’t require an advanced degree to operate; even handles on doors instead of knobs help. Little details can have big impact.

Being comfortable and safe in retirement is how we all hope to live. Having enough interests and variety in our day to keep us engaged and active gives us a reason to get out of bed each morning. Finding a retirement location that best fits your expectations while inching ever closer to your dreams is a step in the right direction.