While one of the most obvious challenges in retirement is not running out of money, there are other important factors to consider and prepare for that may not be as top of mind. Even if you don’t consider yourself close to retiring, you may be able to use this information to help you plan for the future or even assist a parent, loved one, or friend.
Ages and Stages – For many, retirement could be a 30+ year expedition. Time spent in our version of retirement will likely consist of multiple phases and stages that could each be their own book with different chapters. Early, middle, and late retirement will carry with them different peaks and valleys as well as changes in activity levels, spending, lifestyles, motivations, challenges, and opportunities.
Home – Where we live enables how we live. Being mindful of life’s transitions by considering our proximity to the people, places, and things we need and want access to as we get older, along with ensuring our homes support the aging process, can help us feel empowered and protected. Proactively managing and making changes to the home we live in or moving to a new environment that best supports our changing needs can positively impact and control the journey.
Work – We all need something to look forward to that gives us purpose, structure, and social connection. Working isn’t only about financial stability or status, but also a sense of fulfillment and importance that needs to be replaced with something else we are excited about — and it doesn’t even have to be a paid position!
Longevity – It can be difficult to imagine what life will look like — physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially — in the future, to picture ourselves as older and in a different stage of life. As a result, it can also be easy to underestimate our own longevity and forget that, odds are, we will live longer than generations past. Plan for the challenges we all hope we’ll never face (like Alzheimer’s disease) and the ones we hope we will … like playing with our great grandkids on memorable family vacations. It will help you rest easier at night.
Health – This is a potentially big disrupter that can impact almost every aspect of our lives. As our health declines, our lifestyles change, it can limit our ability to work, erode the legacy we’d like to leave, and create tremendous strain on family with enormous impact to our partner’s health and well-being. Take ownership of the things we can control, like advanced planning, leveraging our resources, our attitude about aging, finding outlets to manage stress, and taking care of ourselves — physically, emotionally, mentally, socially.
Family – Family is where vulnerabilities are exposed, and roles and responsibilities change over time. It can be very empowering to work as a team to set expectations, consider, and communicate about how our journey through retirement impacts our loved ones and those around us. Things like changing relationships with a partner, kids, aging relatives, and extended family; managing new stressors; learning how to communicate about the tough stuff; planning for the unexpected; and helping where you can and figuring out how to ask for help while keeping your dignity intact.
Legacy – This can be an uncomfortable topic, since almost no one wants to talk about death. But legacy is about so much more than the technical aspects of distributing money and belongings. It’s about sharing your intentions about what you hope what’s left behind will do and thinking through emotional factors like how traditions are passed along (everything from treasured memories to Sunday dinners and family recipes) and how you want to leave your mark on the world now when you can enjoy it and for generations to come.
In short, living well in retirement extends beyond financial comfort. Talking through these topics with your loved ones may help ensure a more comfortable, happy, successful, and dignified experience.
By Heather Hooper