If you want to know what to expect and how to prepare for retirement, you will discover the most useful advice tends to come from those who are already retired. Many people try to improve their odds of living a happy retired life by diligently researching all they can find in books and magazines. But one can quickly become overwhelmed by the sheer volume and often conflicting advice when it comes to retirement planning. Nothing is more genuine or valuable than firsthand experience.
Before moving into retirement many people have lofty expectations about the second act they hope to live. Leaving the working world behind to embark on a 20-year journey doing whatever you want sounds almost too good to be true. And while some people are lucky enough to live the retired life of their dreams, others discover that retirement differs from their expectations and not always for the better.
Retirees are often willing to share personal experiences as they prepare for and begin to live their second act. Here is a collection of discoveries and suggestions retirees have shared with me:
Find meaningful pursuits to fill your days. When you are no longer employed full time, you get to assume responsibility for filling your calendar and days. This allows you to avoid the stress you felt at work, but it can also be challenging to find enough variety and newness to engage you moving forward.
Planning for a happy retirement is more than just financial. Even if you are adequately prepared for retirement financially, you might miss the social interaction you get at work and struggle to find other ways to connect with others and fill your days. You will need to find a new sense of purpose outside of your job to keep yourself engaged and active in retirement. Retirement can also be an opportunity to try new things and experiences you have not had time for until now.
Plan ahead. Many people who are inching closer to retirement have done little to prepare for this major lifestyle change they are about to experience. Some people learn the hard way it can be a mistake to blindly hope for the best without doing your part to help prepare for how you will spend your time in retirement. You need to prepare for retirement as you would for any other major stage of life. While retirement offers the opportunity to do what you want to do, there's also the danger that you will drift from one day to the next without any sense of purpose. Few retirees wish they had spent less time planning for their retirement life. It's a good idea to make a list of what you want, need and expect in retirement.
Be adaptable. Despite your preparations, retirement will not work out exactly how you planned it to be. Entering retirement with a certain amount of flexibility and willingness to adapt to the unexpected can be enormously helpful as you advance in age. You could retire unexpectedly early due to job loss or develop a health problem that will require you to change your retirement plan, but that doesn't mean you can't find a way to enjoy your retirement years.
Stay positive. Few people are surprised to find that growing older is challenging and uncomfortable. With the likelihood of increasing difficulties ahead, successful retirees have learned the value of trying to maintain a positive attitude. It helps to focus on the possibilities that are still open to you rather than the limitations you now have.
A comfortable retirement is not an easy goal, but it can be a rewarding one. With the right combination of preparation and good luck, you have a chance to truly enjoy your second act. With the exception of working, retirees enjoy many of the same activities they did throughout their lives, but now they get to do them when and how they want to.
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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