You went through plenty of training and planning leading up to your first teaching job. If you’re a parent, you had nine months to plan for the baby’s arrival and the upside down (but wholly positive) effect the little bundle of joy had on your lifestyle.
Consider taking similar planning steps leading up to retirement. It’s not like you have to take courses to learn how to retire. However, many people just kind of wing it. They set a “last day at work” and then sleep in the next morning. Initially, they may revel in the euphoria of having so much free time. But without a clear vision of what they want to do and how they want to schedule their days, they may begin to feel a little rudderless.
What do you want to do?
The actual lifestyle activities you throw yourself into are limited only by your imagination, and could include things like:
- Pursuing hobbies—gardening, crafting, woodworking, fishing
- Volunteering—in the classroom, at museums, in developing countries
- Learning—a second (or third) language, how to fly a plane, new subject skills
- Working—a new career, building an online business, substitute teaching
- Traveling—nearby, around the country, to foreign lands.
Where will you live?
As you take stock of your financial life and adjust your expenses to align with your retirement income stream, you may decide to stay in your home or downsize and move to a less expensive part of the country. This decision is only partly a financial one. Where you live will have a direct impact on your social and family ties.
Who will you spend time with?
It’s important to maintain social connections to avoid feeling isolated. If you were someone who used your career and workplace as your primary social networking hub, you’ll have to work harder at keeping in touch with old friends and meeting new ones.
Many retirees want to spend more time with family, especially grandchildren. If you have aging parents, you might at some point need to care for them. Proximity to family is a big reason people decide to sell their home and move.
How will you stay healthy?
Being active and pursuing your passions in retirement depends in part on maintaining your physical and mental health. There’s a lot you can do to stave off the effects of aging and keep yourself strong and vibrant for as long as possible.
Exercise regularly—AARP reports that 40% of people between ages 45 and 64 are sedentary. For those over age 64, the number jumps to 60%. Being physically active can help keep you looking and feeling younger, in addition to strengthening bones, helping your heart and increasing mental capacity. It can also improve balance, which may help to lessen the risk of falls, a major cause of disability and loss of independence among seniors.1
Stay mentally sharp—The rigors of teaching and challenges from students kept you sharp all these years. Continue to challenge your brain by taking classes, learning a musical instrument, playing chess, doing the daily crossword puzzle, or writing a book or blog. Many Western scientists are now agreeing that meditation can be an effective stress reducer and may increase mental acuity.
Have adequate insurance— Even if you know all the Jane Fonda workout routines by heart, health issues can crop up as you age. Certain physical and mental issues may slow you down, but you can avoid undo financial burdens on your lifestyle by having insurance protections in place. Review your financial plan to see if you need:
- Medicare supplement insurance—Medicare Parts A and B cover a lot, but still leave you facing copays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses. Medicare supplement insurance covers those gaps.
- Life insurance—If loved ones depend on you for support, you may still need some life insurance to protect them in case of your death.
- Disability insurance—If your income depends on money earned from working part- or full-time, a disability policy provides some short-term income protection.
- Long-term care insurance—About 70% of people turning age 65 will need long-term care (LTC) at some point in their lives.2 LTC is assistance with daily personal activities due to a prolonged physical illness or disability, or mental impairments like dementia and Alzheimer’s. The median annual cost of a semi-private nursing home room in 2014 was $77,380.3 Without long-term care insurance, LTC costs could have a major impact on your retirement savings and could also put financial burdens on your family.
How to get started
About five years from retirement, start your lifestyle planning. Make a list of your goals and passions and prioritize your “things to do” list. Some goals may take a few months or even years to plan, such as starting your own business. Other goals, like extensive traveling, may take additional savings commitments. The important thing is to get specific and write down your lifestyle vision. This will make it more real and increase your ability to live a happy and fulfilled retirement.
1 Sources: CareGiver.com and SeniorJournal.com
2 Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
3 Source: Genworth Cost of Care Survey 2014