Published on April 7, 2022
Many people look towards retirement from a purely financial perspective. This is understandable in that getting your finances right is a very important part of preparing for Year R. However, it is only one part. You also need to be prepared for retirement emotionally and physically, including answering the biggest question: What will you do once retired?
Here are some of the main considerations at play as you approach Year R.
What will be your next challenge? You are entering a new phase of your life and for it to be rewarding it must provide you with a challenge. The last thing you want is to become bored in retirement or even worse, feel your self-worth has diminished, especially if you have been previously defined by your work.
If you had no constraints, financial or otherwise, what would you do once you reach retirement age? Would you take a traditional retirement, and spend your time on recreational activities and whatever else you choose, but mainly around your home? Or do you want to make a significant shift in your lifestyle, such as spending six months of each year travelling, or downsizing the house, buying a caravan and travelling indefinitely?
Would you continue to work more-or-less as you are now, because you enjoy your work and believe you still have a few years of contribution left to make? Perhaps your ideal is to gradually reduce your hours, or shift to a slightly less hands-on role? Or do you want to take the opportunity to pursue another line of work, one that is a real passion? Perhaps this might involve going into business for yourself, turning that hobby into something that will bring in some income? Perhaps it will have a voluntary component?
There is no shortage of options. I know people who are keen to finish work as soon as they can so they can turn their attention to a cause they are dedicated to, while I also know people in their 80s who are still working full time, love what they do and have no intention of stopping. This can be a wonderful new stage of life, but again it is best discussed and thought about ahead of time. Of course, you may not have the luxury of complete freedom in choosing your direction, but don’t concern yourself with that for the moment. We’re not thinking financial, we’re thinking dreams here.
How will this fit in with your relationship? Many couples have not spent a lot of time with each other in the 20 years or so before Year R – or not as much as they may think. Work-life and family can do that to you! Your children leaving home can leave you unprepared for being with each other almost all the time. You may need to factor looking after your elderly parents which you will have to allocate more time to their care and travel to do this. It is important to talk to your partner or loved ones, as it is best discussed and thought about ahead of time.
Thinking about future lifestyle considerations is even more important for couples, who in my experience often have differing perspectives of what the future might look like but haven’t necessarily found the time to discuss those perspectives with each other in order to agree on a shared direction.
This topic is closely related to the lifestyle considerations but is worth pondering separately. How much are you truly invested in the work you do now? What are you passionate about? Is there any overlap of your passion with your work? How much do you need something – some sort of work – to keep you engaged with life? How many games of golf would you be able to play before you became bored? Again, this is something that needs to be discussed with your partner.
Health and wellbeing considerations
What are you doing to maintain your health and wellbeing? As we get older, most people seem to spend less and less on their health and wellbeing. However, achieving the best quality of life you can for next 30-odd years is worth putting the effort into. Once retired, you will have more time to spend on your health and wellbeing. Your health is as important as thinking about your finances.
What are you doing to ensure the money lasts? Are your savings invested wisely and tax efficiently? Are you in control of your money, and in particular your spending?
When you have a clearer idea of what you’d like the future to look like, it’s easier to start planning. There are times when we have to have difficult conversations with people about their expectations and the reality of their finances. There are some who get to 65 and really want to retire but, for whatever reasons, haven’t been able to accrue enough assets to support the lifestyle they tell us they want. Sometimes that may mean continuing to work for a while. The unfortunate thing is that often, had these people only started their planning a bit earlier, even in their early to mid-50s, they might have been able to work their way into a better situation.
If you want to hear more about the different considerations when planning for your retirement, listen to my podcast episode ‘The Psychology of Retirement Planning’ with Professor Joanne (Jo) Earl. UNSW. M.Psych; PhD (Psychology) who is a psychologist and researcher at Macquarie University. Her program of research focuses on developing solutions to improve pre and post retirement planning at both the individual and organizational level along with identifying predictors of retirement adjustment for retirees. In the episode, Jo talks about her ‘holistic retirement planning’ research, as health and your next big challenge is just as important as the finances. As we all want to make sure the transition to this next stage of life is a positive experience as everyone deserves to retire and on their own terms.