Back in 2015 I wrote a post asking, “What will you be doing in retirement?” It was geared more towards women, as it was an off-shoot to my first book, What’s the Deal with Retirement Planning for Women. Since then, the topic has morphed. I find more and more people struggling with the very idea of retiring. Just look at our President and most of the Congress! In a nutshell, Boomers are not planning for life as retirees.
And really, it isn’t going to come to you in a dream or a flash of lightning. Getting ready to retire will take planning. And some trial and error. And let’s not be surprised that it will take practice. A successful life as a retiree doesn’t just happen.
Many Boomers I talk to report how hard it is to make the transition into life as a retiree. For some, leaving their job wasn’t very hard. Others, however, lost their job overnight. With so many downsizings and adjustments in corporate America, ending your job can be abrupt. In either case, one day you’re working. The next day you’re not.
Planning for Life as a Retiree…
…is not the same as planning to retire. We tend to be centered and focused on how and when to leave our job. Whether you have a countdown calendar to track how many days and weeks are left. Or, if you are planning to work forever. That’s where most people are stuck in their thinking. They are planning for a single day, a single event. Much like planning the wedding day and forgetting it’s really all about the marriage.
What we seem to be missing is that we need to create a new structure to days that are no longer anchored from 8:00 to 5:00 on the job. Too many people who are newly retired thought it would great to decompress and just hang out at home. Sure, take some time for that. After all, you have been working for four or five decades. But, decompressing only takes a few weeks to a few months. Then what?
What many haven’t realized until it’s too late is that planning for life as a retiree was the missing task. As I wrote nine years ago (boy does time fly!), take the time while you are still comfortably in your routine to think about what you want to do when you retire. When you’ll have nothing but time on your hands. The goal is to make the transition into your retirement years a smoother and happier path.
A wall of blank post-it-notes
I am a visual person. Always trying to draw a picture to make sure I’m understanding a concept. A long-held belief of mine is if you can’t draw an idea or concept on a single sheet of paper with a crayon, you probably don’t really know what you’re talking about. At least not in a way that others can understand.
Retirement is a big concept. A really big idea. I couldn’t figure out a way to draw such a big and unique concept on a single sheet of paper. But over the years, retirement became clearer based on what retired Boomers talk about. Namely, about how surprised they are they had nowhere to go Monday through Friday. Or had no idea what to do with all their spare time. Whoa! Spare time? There’s nothing spare about the next 365 days with no plans in place!
This led me back to the fact that people were planning their retirement date and their parties. But they were not planning for life as a retiree. And the visual that popped in my head: a board filled with nothing but blank post-it notes.
I’ve become a champion of planning for life as a retiree. For not letting retirement just happen to you. Because, if you don’t have at least a small anchor or two to keep you from floating away, it can be challenging to figure out your days. And frustrating. Not to mention depressing.
Use Big Birthdays to Start Experimenting
Retirement is not a vacation. It is literally three huge decades of your life. That’s more than 260,000 hours you need to fill!
While you’re still working and in the thick of life, it can be hard to take the time you need to sit down and start planning. One idea is to earmark your key big birthday months when you turn 50, 55, 60, and 65 as “planning for life as a retiree” months. During these months, make a list of all the things you want to try out before you get to retirement. How about making a list of all the projects you need to finish in the house before you retire? (If you’re a wife, you can give that list to your husband as a “honey-do” list! That’s what I’m doing for Dan!)
A mistake many retirees make is that they don’t take the time to experiment with their ideas. Volunteering comes to mind. Millions of Boomers say they want to volunteer when they retire. That is wonderful and so important to communities and causes. But many folks don’t like the volunteer position they thought they were going to spend some time in. Or, many find that volunteering is not as rewarding or fulfilling as they thought it would be.
Oh no. Now what?
Now, You Need a Roadmap
When “we” say you should be planning for life as a retiree, just how are we supposed to do that? I am always amazed by how much “advice” is dished out, yet there is no roadmap, GPS, recipe, blueprint, etc. Apparently, we’re all just supposed to know how to live life as a retiree.
A better idea, I believe, is to download this roadmap I created for Boomers and GenXers and anyone getting within 10 years of retirement. It’s called the “My Plans for Retirement” worksheet. And, it’s a good place to start. I offer up several sections that may be helpful for you as you thing about your future.
You might find it fun to check out some of the fun ideas in this blog post. See what other Boomers are doing to make their next chapter more meaningful.
In addition, for a much more comprehensive way to do your planning for life as a retiree, please check out my latest book, Cooking Up Your Retirement Plan. It’s a cookbook that guides you along to create your own best recipe for retirement.
As you start out your New Year, I hope you make some inroads in your thinking about 30 years as a retiree. We all have so much to offer.