Major studies have shown that for most people, retirement is one of the happiest times of their lives. Kids are grown, mortgages and big financial obligations are paid off, work responsibilities are often lessening or behind them and retirees tend to have more free time to use as they choose.
But as one moves into the later years of retirement, life changes again as we tend to become less active. Our bodies start to catch up with us. The weekend warrior projects start getting smaller and we tend to have less energy to tackle the rigorous activities we would take up in our 20s and 30s.
A close family friend of ours—we’ll call her my second mother—is getting older. She’s in her 90s and still living independently. She’s had a great life and career as a teacher. Her humor and propensity to strike up a conversation are her hallmarks. But she’s starting to slip. She forgets more often and isn’t quite as sharp as she used to be. Fortunately, she’s got a strong circle of friends and family checking in on her which her helps a lot. Yet, her life is changing.
Here are four things few people think about when they get into the later years of their retirement:
1. I’m going to need more help – In our minds, we are still all 20 years old. But our bodies are older and often we are going to need more help, whether we like it or not. After a lifetime of living independently accepting help can be hard.
2. I can’t / don’t want to do this anymore (Simple tasks are going to be harder) – Our minds slow down when we get older, and we may talk slower and take longer to think through problems or conversations. (My own kids, who are in their 20s, can’t wait for me to finish my sentences.) In our golden years things that we have been doing for years, like preparing meals, doing laundry or going grocery shopping (or ordering groceries online) can become a major effort and perhaps a singular, exhausting project for a day. If you are still working, this scenario can be hard to imagine.
3. I’m going to have to let go of a few things – Paying your bills, cleaning the house, or driving your car may, at some point, become more than you can handle. These can be really hard decisions. Driving, in particular, represents freedom and independence. So, giving up the car is an acknowledgement that you are getting older, but its also a loss of ability that is stark, laying bare the fact that you are old. Accept that there may come a time when you are going to stop doing some things.
4. I’m forgetting names of people I’ve known for 30 years and things I’m supposed to do – Cognitive decline is also hard to accept. With dementia and Alzheimer’s seeming to plague seniors, it can be scary to realize that your mind is going. But even smaller declines in memory and cognitive ability are normal as we age. Hey, its okay. You can start working on systems now to help you remember the really important things.
What should you do to prepare for your golden years (e.g., getting old)? (Okay. I can’t believe I actually typed the last sentence because, after all, I am NOT going to get old like that!)
Here are 5 things you can do to get ready for your (mostly) wonderful golden years:
1. Downsize / change your living situation – For many pre-retirees, they are still living in the home that they raised their kids in. Do you still need 4 bedrooms, a den, dining and living room, man-cave / she-shed and large kitchen? What about the large lawn? Do you still need all that stuff in the basement or garage, too? A smaller place is more efficient and possibly less expensive to maintain.
2. Where do you want to be? Near family? Kids? Grandkids? A warm place? – When you should start thinking about where you want to be, long term. While you might love your town, your life has changed and that often means a different housing situation or even location.
3. How do you want to live your retired life? – Retirement means different activities and opportunities. Have you lived in the suburbs? Does living in a small city with cultural opportunities sound more appealing? If you live in Massachusetts, is it important to spend some part of the winter in a warm climate? Or, do you love to ski so that might mean spending more time up north or out west near a ski resort? Having access to meaningful activities and people is key to a healthy retirement.
4. Simplify - Make plan for when you can’t or don’t want to do a lot of your routine tasks. For some, moving to a condo, apartment or assisted living setting lays the proper groundwork for that future. If you own a business or investment properties, now is the time to make a plan for who is going to take over those responsibilities. Of course, having your estate plan in place will help your heirs and also cause you to think more about how to simplify your assets and finances.
5. Family and friends – Make sure both of these relationships are readily available to you in whatever changes you make. Moving to a remote or rural location might seem appealing now while you are fit and able. But in your 90s you might feel very differently about being far away from many services such as doctors, care professionals or family.
Still have questions about your or a family members’ golden years? Give us a call. We have worked with many clients that are dealing with the challenges of aging. We can help you make smart choices. You can schedule a quick call with me by clicking HERE.
Lyman H. Jackson
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