Setting Realistic Retirement Expectations

US News

You probably have a few ideas about what you want your retirement years to be like. These plans generally involve being financially self-sufficient, and no longer working to make ends meet. Instead, you have the luxury to work at something that genuinely interests you or never work again if you are so inclined. Without the huge time commitment of the working week, you will find yourself with time to pursue the things that you enjoy. It is a pretty picture, with no more stress and plenty of free time to have some fun.

But the retirement life you will eventually live may be far different from what you envision. Without proper planning, those newfound hours of freedom could turn into boredom, and health problems may limit your choice of activities. Here are a few reasons retirement might not live up to the fantasy:

Not every moment needs to focus on worthwhile activities. There is nothing wrong with doing something just because you enjoy doing it. Those new to the retirement game sometimes feel pressure to keep busy doing something that matters every moment. Not everything has to have meaning. Sometimes a little well-earned slacking is just what the doctor ordered. Retirement offers an opportunity to go with the flow and see what happens. As a retiree, you can decide how to spend your day, whether that means sleeping in late, savoring a second cup of coffee or volunteering for a worthwhile cause. Give yourself the freedom to do as much or as little as you want. Your time is not wasted if you enjoy the moments. An empty calendar can be a wonderful thing.

You are never too old to be frugal. One of the fortunate facts about reaching retirement age is there are generally not that many things you still need. The house is furnished, the cars have been paid off, the garden is generally as you want it and you probably have more clothes than you know what to do with. It is a bit easier to be frugal when you do not really need anything. On the flip side, you never know what the economy will do or how your health will hold up. So it makes sense to maintain the frugal nature that got you where you are today.

You may never discover your passion. Not everyone is lucky enough to identify the interests and activities they are truly passionate about. Sure, we have hobbies and distractions that engage us, but not everyone can find an interest that makes them excited to get out of bed and begin each new day. If you do not yet have such a focus, continue your investigation by trying whatever interests you along the way. You might need to risk being a little adventurous, experiment with new things and step outside of your safety zone to find such an activity.

There will be challenges. As we age, many of the little things we used to take for granted may become a bit more difficult. We may need to slow down, watch our step a bit more attentively and our menu may exclude the fiery spices that used to tickle our palate. Perhaps we do a few less pushups and are a bit less flexible in our stretches. The biggest mistake would be to try to ignore your new limitations rather than accept and cope with what they are.

Retirement should be a time of exploration and adventure as you do what you have always wanted to. But you will also need to figure out how to cope with difficult situations and slow down a bit. The retirement life we will ultimately live will probably be very different from what we imagined it would be.

Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.



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