When planning for retirement there’s an overwhelming tendency to focus on the financial side, and as well as should be. Without a solid tax-deferred retirement plan there would be no retirement for most people. But there’s also a non-financial side of retirement that we need to be concerned with too. If we concern ourselves strictly with the savings side of retirement, we may face a retirement that has a few gaping holes. In addition to saving money, what other retirement preparations should we be making?
It would be the ultimate irony to reach retirement age with a seven-figure retirement portfolio, but not be healthy enough to enjoy it. Your health, just like a retirement portfolio, is a long-term process that should be prepared for well in advance.
The healthcare community warn us of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle accompanied by a few bad health habits. Since we don’t feel the immediate effects of those behaviors during much of our working lives, the warnings are easy to ignore. But as you approach retirement age, and particularly once you enter the traditional retirement years, those warnings begin to take on greater meaning.
The problem is that once you reach your 60s, poor health conditions relating to unhealthy lifestyle habits tend to become chronic and are often impossible to reverse. That makes a strong case for adopting healthy eating habits, a regular exercise routine and the elimination of habits like cigarette smoking or excess alcohol consumption.
Healthy lifestyle habits adopted early in life provide a much better chance that you’ll be able to live the kind of life in retirement that you hope to.
It’s usually not until you reach retirement that you begin to fully grasp how important work is to your life and your sense of well-being. This is particularly true of people who have career positions or who are self-employed. Work is often more than just a means to earn a living. It can also be the source of our self-identity and give us a sense of purpose.
You’ll have to be prepared to fill that void by the time you retire. That could mean having a second career, a part-time business or a more formal involvement in charitable activities. Each of these can give your life purpose, and even a reason to get up in the morning. They also provide a connection with people as well as a “mission in life”.
Take a close look at the activities that you participate in – or would like to participate in – outside of work. Any of these could provide the basis of a meaningful activity that you will become even more involved in upon retirement. If that activity adds richness your life now, think about how much more significant it will be once you retire.
Often times when you’re working in a busy or stressful career, and focusing on the endgame of retirement, the present can get lost in the effort. The present includes people – family, friends and acquaintances. You may not have time to cultivate the kind of people-relationships that you want now because of your career, but once you retire you’ll need those relationships more than ever.
The problem is that people aren’t going to sit around and wait for your retirement to arrive to have a deeper, personal relationship with you. And sometimes being career driven can leave you to be poorly prepared for relationships on a personal level.
Like retirement portfolios and health, relationships and social connections are developed over time. Be intentional about building and nurturing those relationships now, no matter how busy or distracted you are.
We usually think of conservative spending habits – or frugality – as a money function. Though the end result is better control of your money, the action itself is really more about personal behavior and habits. For example, if you buy a new car every five years, you’ve developed a certain behavior pattern as it relates to cars. The same is true if you got yourself used to eating dinner in restaurants four or five nights a week, it’s a habit.
Unless you will be wealthy in retirement, these types of consumption patterns will not serve you well when you retire. The problem will be that the high consumption lifestyle will be normal for you after living it for decades. You may find it difficult to live any other way.
A better approach would be to begin modifying your consumption patterns years ahead of retirement. You don’t want your retirement to feel like a financial diet, which is exactly what it will be if you have to suddenly cut back on your consumption patterns. More conservative spending habits should be normal well before you reach retirement.
The quality of your retirement can be determined as much by where you live as it will on how much money you have. I’m not just talking about whether you live in a retirement community, or at the beach, or even in a foreign country – though I’m not excluding those either.
More fundamentally, you may have some idea as to whether you want to live in a condominium or a freestanding house; in a city, a suburban community or rural location; whether you want to continue to live where you are now or to return to your childhood hometown; or if you have children, whether you want to live close to them, or will you be okay living in some other location?
That’s a lot to consider, and notice we haven’t even gotten into the question of beachfront condominiums or golf communities! Making the decision as to where you want to live when you retire can take many years. You have to decide what is important to you, and who is important, and that might even take some experimentation and preplanning.
Retirement really is a full cycle life change, much like going off to college, getting married or having children. Most everything that you now know in your life will change, and that will mean not only preparing your finances but also your body, your mind, your habits, your interests and maybe your location.
Have you thought seriously about the scope of the changes retirement will likely bring to your life?