Even most professionals who love their careers don’t want to work forever. As they age, most want to gracefully bow out of the workforce and start another chapter of their lives. Retirement isn’t something to wait to plan for, though — if someone is within 10 years of it, it’s time to think about what retirement will look like and how to make it work.
Pretty Brochure, Bad Sale
Many workers who approach retirement think they will move to Florida and golf, take up tennis, or join a country club. Then they find out they don’t like golf or that tennis would be great if they were five years younger. They move back, citing a myriad of reasons: they missed their neighborhood or family or that Florida is too hot in the summer.
Or maybe they hope to travel during retirement, only to realize that their budget doesn’t allow it, or that they didn’t enjoy flight delays and cramped hotels.
Perhaps they dream of serving on a company board or volunteering. But when they were working, did they line up a board seat? Did they volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club?
Know what all these scenarios say to me? The person saw a brochure of what retirement should look like, but they never tried it on.
This is one of the most common hurdles with retirement planning — people think they’re going to do all kinds of fun things, but they don’t develop exactly what those fun things are. As a result, they end up unhappy or unsatisfied.
Try Things on for Size
Addressing the “brochure view” many people have of retirement requires a simple fix: getting out and doing things. From around age 45 on, a person should determine ways to stay active. Maybe that means having a few hobbies or being part of a couple of groups. Going out to experience things will help uncover what they like — or don’t — while identifying which things aren’t quite as feasible as they’d envisioned.
If a person thinks about what they need to do to make their retirement dream a reality, they can check all the boxes necessary for the retirement they’d like — such as becoming a certified sommelier to help wine enthusiasts pick out great wine a few nights a week. As a person gets closer to actually retiring, this grounded, rational approach can help them adjust expectations based on an accurate view of their circumstances, like replacing the idea of picking up surfing in their 70s.
Through this process, people should be honest with themselves about their priorities. When a friend of mine retired, he knew he wanted to have two houses: a main house and one near his children. He looked for a house in Washington, D.C., because that’s where his kids were. Then, the kids decided they didn’t want to live in the city, but in rural Vermont. Now, he’s looking for a house there. That’s good planning. Even though he’s being flexible, his priority around family is stable.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have another friend who bought an unbelievably gorgeous condo in South Carolina. He figured he wouldn’t need five bedrooms or a huge family room because his kids and in-laws would only pop in sporadically. But when family visits, there’s always added stress as people try to figure out who will be in which room with whom.
Soon-to-be retirees should be realistic and plan for the lifestyle they currently have. Instead of assuming they’ll live their best lives with just their significant other, they must consider other friends and family and how those people will fit into the retirement picture, too.
Sync up and Learn
A significant other still needs to be a huge piece of the pie when planning. Day one of retirement may be a little late to tell a spouse they want to go see every baseball stadium in the U.S. What if their spouse is a homebody who doesn’t like baseball or traveling? Partners must be sure they are in sync.
A person who’s about to retire should have some established passions they can negotiate with their partner about. Remember, it’s not unusual for people to lose interest or abilities. So, having a partner write down at least three new things to try is also a good idea. Couples can read books that suggest what to do during certain stages of life to get ideas.
Would-be retirees should also tap the power of those in their network. If they know someone who isn’t in retirement yet but that person seems to have plans, why not gather whatever tips that person can share? Future retirees can reach out to three to five people who appear to be happy in their retirement and ask them what they have liked or haven’t liked. Maybe they’ll say they like living in Florida, just not year-round. Maybe they’ll explain that, if they had it to do over, they’d buy a condo that was closer to the beach. In any case, the person who’s planning to retire can go into learning mode to explore possibilities and reduce the risk of making mistakes.
It’s Never Too Early or Late to Set a Good Retirement Path
Retirement is supposed to be one of the best times of life when people get out of the grind and enjoy everything the world has to offer. However, looking at retirement in advance rather than leaving everything to chance or planning at the last minute can make that a reality. It’s never too early or late to get this done. The more proactive someone is about seeing what really fits, and the more they bring others into the planning process, the higher their odds of great golden years will be.