Enjoying Retirement After the Honeymoon Period

After working 30 or more years, retirement will offer a new challenge to stay active and engaged in a world that you now must manage. While ensconced in your career, you typically did not have to think twice about how to fill your hours. You walked in the door in the morning where your deadlines, meetings and duties were waiting. It was not a matter of having enough things to fill the day, but rather having enough time in the day to get everything done.

Then you retire and assume responsibility for filling your calendar with meaningful or at least entertaining activities. At first, it can be an exciting, liberating and truly joyful time. You finally have time to attack the to-do list you have been compiling for many years. And you now have an open calendar to take the trips you dreamed of for so long. Rather than being forced to rush out the door to get to work, you now have freedom to take things easy, enjoy the downtime and go with the flow.

But this happy time, what is often called the honeymoon period of retirement, can only go on for so long. Once your to-do list is done, you have experienced a few trips and the slow days of doing nothing begin to drag on, what do you do? Here’s how to enjoy retirement after the honeymoon is over:

Be realistic. Some people make the mistake of naively waltzing into a retired life with unrealistic expectations. Rather than planning ahead for their years of free time, they dream of retirement as an escape from a stifling career. They assume that once they leave the working world everything will be glorious. Unfortunately, that is not always the reality. Once retired, days will not magically fill themselves with fulfilling moments. It takes effort to realize a retirement that is all you hope for. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that by passively going with the flow of retired life you will miraculously realize a satisfying retirement each day. It is up to you to make it happen.

Be prepared. Imagine you have one week of free time with nothing on the calendar. What is the first thing you would do? And once that is done, what would be next on your list? Now imagine a year with nothing on the calendar. Do you think you have enough interests and passions to not just get you through that time, but to actually allow you to enjoy each step of the journey? As a retiree, you should plan on multiplying that one year by 20 or more. If you take the time beforehand to imagine and consider what you will do to occupy yourself, you might be a bit more prepared to make the most of your retirement. Instead of hoping for the best, do what you can to prepare the way to help insure a happy outcome.

Be considerate. Have you talked with your spouse about how they envision living in retirement? The two of you are in this for the duration, and working together from the start can make for smoother sailing over the long term. Although you may have lived together for decades, how often during that time was it 24/7 togetherness? It is very different being together full time during a weekend or a vacation than it will be sharing every day from this point forward. Where do your retirement plans coincide, and where do they diverge? What will you do together, and what individual interests might you pursue on your own? It is important to have both time for sharing activities as well as freedom to follow individual pursuits.

Be inspired. Now that you have reached retirement, don’t be shy about patting yourself on the back for a job well done. Not everyone is lucky enough to be where you are, so make the best of it. This can be an excellent time to try new things and experiment with passions you may have felt years ago. You have time on your hands, and no one telling you what to do. Let your imagination take you where it will. Think outside of the box you have lived in for so many years, and do what you want to do. Try new things, experiment and enjoy living your second act. When you look back over your life, wouldn’t you prefer to remember the crazy, exciting and inspired times you lived to the very end? May the honeymoon never end.

From my blog on Us News & World. Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

Why 65 is Too Young to Retire

The magical age 65 that signaled retirement time for our parents might not hold true for the baby boomer generation. Sure the idea is appealing to call it quits before we are too old to appreciate and enjoy our second act. But the reality may be that 65 is just too young to retire. Some 76 percent of employees say they will continue working past retirement age, with 40 percent working because they want to and 35 percent because they will have to, according to a 2013 Gallup survey. Here’s when it might make sense to delay retirement past age 65:

When you still have a job. If you are currently employed, still able to effectively perform your duties and the job itself is not driving you crazy, it can make sense to stay at it for a while more. The longer you can delay taking Social Security, the more your monthly checks will ultimately be. For each year beyond your full retirement age that you delay collecting Social Security benefits up to a maximum of age 70, you will receive an additional 8 percent. You can also delay the time when you will become 100 percent responsible for your own health insurance premiums as long as your employer is picking up part of the tab. Finally, should you leave your job beyond the age of 50 either by choice or for reasons beyond your control, there is no guarantee you will quickly find another. Since 2007, job seekers over 55 have consistently experienced longer durations of unemployment than younger workers. For many people it makes sense not to give up a decent job before it is absolutely necessary.

When you are not yet financially prepared. If you retire at age 65, chances are you will live another 20 or more years in retirement. If you have worked and contributed to Social Security over the years, you will receive monthly benefits. However, these benefits were never intended to provide all or even most of your retirement income. The average monthly benefit for retired workers in August 2013 was $1,270, while the maximum monthly benefit for someone retiring at full retirement age (age 66) in 2013 is $2,533. Some bills will disappear in retirement, especially if the kids are done with their educations, the mortgage is paid off and the cars payments are done. But other expenses may quickly take their place, and health care costs will need to be an increasing consideration. Plus, when you retire, you don’t want to just get by. You want to enjoy yourself. You finally have the time to do what you want to, but if you lack the necessary funds you may find yourself unable to partake. Financial preparation for retirement should not be about just making it, but making it memorable.

When you have few other interests. If you have worked the last 30 plus years, your daily activities have to a large extent been defined by your job. Hours are filled with projects, deadlines, meetings and strategy sessions as you do what you were hired to do. When you retire you effectively flip the switch and become individually responsible for filling your time. Although the new freedom you will have is exciting and allows you to explore what you never could while tied to work, the hours can drag on if you do not have enough interests. It helps to prepare before you retire rather than suddenly go from a busy 40-hour work week to an empty calendar.

When you enjoy your current situation. There are some fortunate people who look forward to each day and the challenges it offers. They thrive on interactions with fellow workers and the camaraderie felt working toward a shared purpose. Even if a boss does not regularly offer recognition for a job well done, the steady paycheck does. If your job itself is interesting, why look for a way out? Various studies have found that one of the main things people miss when they quit working is the interaction with those they worked beside over the years. Some of our best friendships may start on the job. Retirement should be about having a choice in how you spend your time. If work is what you want to do in your second act, go for it.

Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

Why Retirement Should Scare You

Much of what we read and hear suggests retirement should be a wonderful time of new adventure, exciting moments and blissful days. We finally have the free time to pursue passions and explore new hobbies, rather than being forced to adhere to the dictates of a job or career. But when you think about your retirement-to-be, do you ever find yourself feeling a bit anxious? Here are six reasons you might not experience the retirement you are hoping for:

Dwindling savings. Retirees are not always financially prepared to realize the blissful retirement life they aspire to. The stock market crash of 2008 wiped out trillions of dollars in retirement accounts. When the stock market eventually bottomed out in the first quarter of 2009, retirement accounts had lost about $2.7 trillion, 31 percent of their peak 2007 value.

No more paydays. For some people, things are finally starting to get back on track. But those years of lost account growth cannot be recouped. And many people continue to struggle with no happy end in sight. Some employees have been prematurely forced from jobs due to health issues or changes in their business, short-circuiting plans to build savings accounts to fund retirement. And it’s not easy to get another job once you pass age 50. Middle-age job hunters are discovering that many companies prefer to bring in younger folks who are more affordable and cheaper to insure.

Health problems. Health concerns can become more acute as we move up the age ladder. Despite our best efforts, we are just not as capable of doing all the things we did while younger. What kind of retirement will it be if we find ourselves physically unable to take advantage of the free hours we worked so hard to achieve? It is one thing to contemplate how you will strive to accept aging and its various challenges. It is quite another to find yourself living those challenges day in and day out.

Boredom. Boredom is a real possibility for people who have grown accustomed to work filling the hours in the day. Few people have to worry about keeping busy while caught up in 8- to 12-hour days. We all know how important it is to remain active and engaged as we age to fight off the effects of aging. But what exactly are you going to do to keep engaged and active? Consider whether you have enough hobbies and interests to keep you busy during the many retirement years ahead. For those who retire at 65, 20 or more years await you in retirement. Filling those years pursuing your passions sounds excellent, unless you haven’t identified any passions to inspire your days.

End of life issues. Couples will need to adjust to the reality that one member is likely to outlive the other. After so many years spent together, the prospect of spending your remaining years without a familiar hand to hold can be terrifying. It scares me to imagine living my second act without my wife to share in moments and make them that much more special.

Dependency. Another unwelcome companion to aging can be the tendency to lose one’s independence. Whether retiring in place or navigating the roads in our cars, seemingly little things can become a struggle as we advance in years. No one wants to give up their independent living. And no one wants to be a burden on family and friends.

It sometimes scares me to think of the realities that retirement may hold. As an optimist, I hope for the best and try not to let potential negatives cloud my outlook. Perhaps if I can go into retirement with preparations for and acceptance that life will be different from what it has been to this point, I can experience some of the magic that we all search for in our second act.

From my US News & World blog. Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.