What should you do before retiring? --Pay off the mortgage, save a pile of money, and fix up the house, right?
Preparing for retirement involves a number of activities, but it also requires some deep thinking about how you want to live in a new stage of your life. Because it is one of those big life changes, it requires some planning. Here are four things you need to do to be ready.
1. Define your retirement
The definition of retirement is no longer a singular stoppage of fulltime work followed by a life of leisure that is akin to an endless vacation. For today’s retirees, it is a second act. It may include part-time work in your pre-retirement career field or something completely different. The COVID period caused us to re-evaluate our lives, our work and our families. In doing so, many have changed their plans to emphasize life priorities such as spending more time with family, hobbies, charity work and activities that offer greater meaning. (My COVID epiphany—after looking for more than 5 years—was to buy a small camp on a lake in NH. Don’t worry. With two kids in college and one going back for graduate school, I don’t have plans to retire anytime soon.) The bottom line is that retirement today is no longer defined as just stopping work.
2. Decide how you are going to spend your time
The first couple of months of retirement are exciting—taking that once-in-a-lifetime trip, visiting family (e.g., grandchildren, if you have them) and friends, traveling, tackling home projects, exploring a new activity, sleeping in, etc. But eventually, you’ll realize you need a plan and a purpose. In talking with many people who have retired over the years, I’ve found that it takes about two years or so for most people to settle into a happy routine. So, start thinking about it now. Your retirement should be an adventure full of new experiences. Do you have a bucket list? If not, start making one now.
Retirement is also an opportunity to completely reset your daily routine. ‘Been thinking about getting more exercise? Start going to the gym, take a yoga class, or sign up for pickleball. ‘Always wanted to hike part of the Appalachian Trail or climb all of the 4,000-foot mountains in NH (it’s a thing), start mapping out your schedule of hikes.
3. Start cleaning out your house
Someday it is more than likely that you will need to simplify your life. As we age, simple physical tasks tend to become a major effort. If you are like me, you’ve got a lot of stuff that you’ve been too busy to address or get rid of. One thing is for sure, when I am 90 years old I don’t want to have to clean out the garage, basement or attic. Experts say, if you have stuff that you
have not physically touched in three years, you should give it away, recycle it or throw it out. I’m not sure that I can come to terms with the 3-year rule yet, but I understand the concept and the benefits. Cleaning out your house will become especially important if you have plans to downsize or move in retirement. So, start getting rid of stuff now.
This rule was brought home with great clarity over this past year as we have had to clean out a home of a close family friend who is 92 and just transitioned to a nursing home. On each visit to her home over the last 18 years, she wisely told us to take whatever we wanted. At the same time, she parted with lots of her stuff. Even so, there were three trips to Goodwill1, three trips to the dump with a U-Haul truck and many carloads to empty out the house. It was a lot of work and took several weekends with my brothers to clear it all out. If you have a big family of willing2 volunteers, you can leave it to them. Otherwise, do your family a favor and get rid of it now.
4. Update your financial plan
This should come as no surprise. When you stop working you’re still going to need income to pay your bills and do some fun things. If you have not figured out if your money will last, you’ve got to do it now. In surveys of retirees, one of the top regrets is that they did not anticipate how long they would live and consequently, how much money they would need in retirement. Don’t become one of those people. The financial plan you’ve had during your working years is about to change dramatically. Now you need a plan that will support you in what will likely be one of the happiest and most satisfying times of your life. Be ready by updating—or, if you don’t have a plan, create—your financial plan before you retire.
If you have questions about how to get ready for retirement, give me a call. I’m here to help. You can schedule a quick call with me by clicking HERE.
Lyman H. Jackson
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1I love Goodwill https://www.goodwill.org/ They will take just about anything except for toxic chemicals and paint. There are other charities that will take house contents, too, such as the Salvation Army. Check your local area for the best and closest options. 2 I am being facetious when I say “willing” because I have yet to meet any family member who willingly wants to spend a weekend cleaning out a relative’s house.
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