Retirement is about much more than money. At retirement, you enter a very different phase of life, one where your time is your own. No longer will you be slave to the alarm clock, nor will the boss have a say about where you are and what you do.
For most of us, the prospect of that kind of freedom makes us almost giddy. But does the reality match expectations? It might. But before you retire, give some thought to the emotional aspects, preparing for them just as you should for the financial part.
There are several key questions to ask yourself as you step into the next chapter of your life. Here are a few of them.
- Am I emotionally ready to retire?
Many of us derive satisfaction and self-worth from working. We provide for our families, accumulate wealth, work our way up in responsibility and esteem from our peers, and feel good about contributing to the success of the company. Even if you’re tired of the day-to-day grind of the working world, don’t automatically discount these important benefits of working.
- What do I see myself doing in retirement?
You may wish to completely cut ties with the workforce. But remember that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Many retired people find satisfaction in part-time work or volunteer positions. They consult in their field of expertise; they may work in something completely different that they can leave behind at the end of the day; or they may volunteer in a program about which they feel passionate.
- Where will you live in retirement?
Retirement may be a time to make a big change in your living situation. If you’ve lived in the suburbs all your life, perhaps you dream about a high-rise apartment in the city. You may dream of selling the house and seeing the sights from an RV for a few years. Or maybe you’d like to explore opportunities to live ultra-affordably in another country. Whatever your dreams and goals, it’s wise to think through the options and make a thoughtful decision rather than one based on a purely emotional, knee-jerk reaction.
- Are you and your spouse in agreement about retirement?
Talking through your dreams, goals and options can help avoid conflicts. You may be ready to retire and sell the house, but perhaps your spouse is not. If that’s the case, compromise is in order. Remember that there will likely be a transition period when each person gets used to having the other around full-time. When one spouse has largely been at home, he or she has a routine and a way of handling the household; the other should be sensitive to that. Even when both have worked full-time, there will be an adjustment period just having each other around every day. Be sensitive to your spouse’s need for time alone, and be sure to communicate yours.
When one spouse retires while the other continues working, retirement may look different in the first few years than it does later. It can be beneficial to think about retirement in phases. For example, the first phase may involve learning to live on less income, volunteering and attending to those chores that, until now, have had to wait. The next phase, after both people have retired, could be traveling.
Emotional needs play a significant role in happiness in retirement, so be sure to consider them as you plan. And don’t be afraid to change the plan if you find out the one you made isn’t meeting your needs.