Since no one has firsthand experience being retired until they actually do, we may stumble while learning to navigate our way. This is new territory, and we typically have to figure things out as we go. Some people do not fully appreciate the magnitude of unlimited free time until they experience it, while others fail to plan ahead enough to sufficiently prepare for multiple decades of retirement. Whatever the particular oversight, being blindsided by the unexpected threatens to put a damper on an otherwise smooth transition into retirement.
Retirement doesn’t have to be full of surprises. We can learn from the experiences of those who have gone before us. Here are a few potential stumbling blocks to be aware of as you begin your retirement journey.
Thinking you know it all from day one. Navigating our careers made us into efficient workers who were good at the job we did. But those skills that enabled us to advance through the ranks are not always the same qualities that lead to a successful retirement. If you want to make the most of your second act you might have to make some changes. Your retirement activities are likely to evolve over time. You will encounter good and bad surprises and need to deal with them as best you can. It is impossible to know ahead of time exactly how your retirement journey will play out. Don’t be surprised to feel a bit out of sync at the beginning of retirement. You will likely have to change and adjust along the way.
Waiting for life to happen. When you first retire you will likely be ready to enjoy a little downtime. Feelings of relief will blend with growing excitement about what could lie ahead. But it can be a mistake to expect a fulfilling retirement to materialize without your active involvement. Just because you made it this far doesn’t mean your job is done. You can be as active as you want to, but try to make it a conscious choice. It is important to take control of the new life you have waited and worked for.
Assuming you have enough interests to last you. Many of us cannot wait to revisit the hobbies and passions we were forced to neglect due to the responsibilities of everyday life. It is a wonderful thing to finally have time you can choose how to fill. But don’t be surprised if a few years into retirement you find your enthusiasm has diminished. If you don’t want to become bored, it helps to always be on the lookout for something new that captures your interest. Just because you have not tried something in the past does not mean you cannot take a stab at it now. More is better when it comes to interests in retirement.
Believing you and your partner are on the same page about retirement. It is not uncommon for spouses to have differing views on the ideal way to enjoy retirement. My vision of how to spend the perfect day may be nothing like what my wife has in mind, and that is OK. There is no reason to fear such differences. What helps to keep things running smoothly is honest discussions and open sharing about retirement expectations. Share your vision of retirement and encourage your partner to do likewise. Don’t wait for a problem to arise. Become familiar with what each of you looks forward to and fears. It will be easier to navigate your way if you combine forces.
Limiting your options. When my parents retired, their vision of the future was one of peaceful moments, a bit of bridge, a dash of golf and enjoying their freedom. That was the way they wanted retirement to be, and it worked just fine for them. I envision my second act differently. I do not see retirement as the end of the road, but a new beginning. I am still healthy, active and have a variety of interests. And now I have the time to really pursue what excites me. Short of health or financial issues, living in retirement can be the beginning of new experiences you have the power to personally select.
From my blog for US News & World