The Importance of Planning Your Retirement

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Years ago, in our parents or grandparents’ generation, people would retire around aged 60, maybe earlier, mostly without any thought to as how they would spend their retirement years. For those who worked physical jobs back then, often this was a relief to finally put down their tools and relax at last. And for those women who remained at home throughout their lives, the biggest change for them in retirement, was having their spouse full time at home.  So, adjustments in both senses definitely occurred, however again there was little understanding or preparation for these.

Today, when we look at retiring, increasing life expectancy means that many people now potentially spend the equivalent of half (or more) of their working lives in retirement. This is a significant portion of our lives yet for some, this remains unplanned. If we wish to lead a happy, purposeful, and meaningful life through our retirement years, we need to begin to engage in thinking about lifestyle planning before leaving the workforce. Traditionally people have concentrated on financial planning to ensure they have the funds to match their aspirations/goals but now equally we need to focus on making the most of our retirement especially in the early years when we are more physically active.

A starting point for our planning, is to consider the things we will miss once we have left the fulltime workforce, for example social interaction. While we may take this for granted at work, research suggests that many cite social interaction as something they miss/will miss in retirement. There are a range of other aspects we may miss such as feeling valued, our purpose, our identity, to name just a few. In addition, it is very useful to reflect on the things that could concern us as we contemplate retirement. Examples of the themes, in addition to finance, are things like health, isolation, boredom, relationships, to name just a few. We need to put some time aside and consider these aspects and identify ways in which we will incorporate these in our retirement picture. If we have a partner it is vital to sit down and discuss how we each would like our retirement to look and how we might need to negotiate various aspects. And talking of partners, if one or both have been in the workforce for years, this means we haven’t really lived with our partner in what I call 24/7 except on weekends and holidays!  So, it is a good opportunity to have a conversation about assumptions, expectations, and opportunities.

Now, let’s think about the boundless opportunities that can come our way, many of which don’t cost lots of money.  What would your retirement picture ideally look like? Consider what drives or motivates you and think about fun projects you would like to embark on. Think about the raft of leisure activities that are out there and consider which ones you would like to try and perhaps who you would like to do these with. Think about the importance of on-going learning and how you can access this in its various forms. Think about your family and how you would like to involve them.   Might you want to pick up a part time job, or perhaps give some of your time to voluntary work? And very importantly, what are you going to do to concentrate on your health and the role of exercise.

So, take the time to think about what will be important to you in retirement and begin to make a plan. It can certainly be a positive and rewarding time where we have the opportunity to build our own structure with the flexibility to change and adapt.

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