Keeping your glass half full in your retirement years
My husband has told me emphatically on many occasions that he will never retire. Like many of us, his work and his passion for what he does day in and day out, define him. I, on the other hand, look forward to indulging in some much yearned for time to finally write that novel or two. I may even go and fulfill a dream of volunteering at an orphanage in Tibet or Rwanda for a year provided my health is in good check. On a ‘glass half empty’ day, I do feel trepidation at the thought of managing financially. Fear kicks in when I think about maintaining the lifestyle I enjoy now.
Everyone has their own definition of what it means to retire. For some, the very thought of retirement sends shudders through their very being. For others, they’re counting down the years, months and days to finally be free of the commitment of the daily grind that is work, or running a business.
Retirement means facing into change and exploring opportunities
The reality is, transitioning from full or part time employment directly challenges our sense of identity, financial security and perceived social status. “What do you do for a living?” becomes a question you want to avoid being confronted with at any cost. The routine you’ve lived for decades is about to feel like a lesser known, lesser defined entity. Your sense of status in the community suddenly feels diminished – note the emphasis on feels. Financially, there are many of us stuck in the ‘not sure I’ve enough money to be a self-funded retiree but too much to receive a pension’. On the health front regular skin checks, colonoscopies, breast checks, prostate checks, eye checks, hearing checks all start to become a reality of our annual schedule.
According to Australian government’s Seniors website, ‘on average, people are spending around 20 years at school, technical colleges or other education institutions; 35 years working; and 20 years in retirement.’
This means retirement is far from being an end to your career years, but the beginning of a new phase of your life. You’ve worked hard to reach the right to choose when to transition to retirement, it’s worth investing some time in planning ahead for a fulfilling few decades.
What are the opportunities ahead of you that retirement could open up?
Write your retirement story
It is never too early to start planning for retirement. A great starting point for planning a fulfilling transition to retirement is to write your own retirement story. What do you want from your retirement years? Some of the questions to help you create your own story, may include:
- How will I transition from my work/business? Will I reduce my hours gradually? Can I afford to stop work completely? Do I want to stop work completely? What options are available to me for reducing my hours? What would an ideal timeline look like? What is my succession plan?
- Where do I want to live? Is the neighbourhood I live in now going to be suitable for me in my retirement years?
- Will my wife/partner/husband be retiring at the same time as me? How will this affect our roles and responsibilities as a couple?
- Will I be responsible for the care of my grandchildren on a regular basis? Do I need to factor this in to my plan?
- How much money do I need to achieve the lifestyle I want?
- Do I need to start improving my health and fitness now for better health and wellbeing in my retirement? What will I do in my retirement years to make sure my health and wellbeing is a priority?
- Who will be my social and/or peer network? Do I need to consider moving from my current accommodation to be closer to friends, peers or family?
- What would a typical week look like for me?
- What are the activities, hobbies or interests that I’ve always wanted to be involved in, that I will now have time for?
- Do I feel safe, comfortable and secure living out my retirement years in the location I live in now? In 10 years time? In 20 years time?
- How do I want to holiday? Do I need to consider a caravan, holiday rental scheme, overseas house swap or beach shack? Can I go away regularly and feel that my home and contents are secure?
- Do I know what my retirement finance and accommodation choices are, or do I need to start researching into what options are available to me?
- Will my pet/s still be around by the time I retire? Will I want to take on the responsibility of another pet? What does this mean for my accommodation needs, financial needs and/or plans for regular trips away?
- What financial benefits will be available to me as a senior? What will my annual budget look like?
- Do I want to continue the upkeep and maintenance on the property I live in now? What about 10 years into my retirement? What about 15 years into my retirement? Do I need to consider my accommodation options to free up more time to live a fulfilling retirement?
What can you do to maintain the network of people you are used to having around you?
One of the biggest changes you will experience in transitioning to retirement is a diminished regular network of people. If you’re someone who thrives on social interaction, you may want to consider how you will fill the void of not having work colleagues, friends and your customers easily accessible to you for interaction, conversation and sharing common interests.
A retirement village lifestyle is an attractive option for many Australian’s approaching retirement. It is akin to: redeveloping the street you live in right now; updating and refurbishing every house in the street; adding some shared facilities such as a swimming pool; library; community centre and tennis court; moving out those neighbours you don’t feel you’ve much in common with and replacing them all with good friends; hiring a communal gardener/handyperson and popping a security gate at either end of the street. Suddenly you’ve a network of peers living alongside each other, a sense of safety and security in knowing your neighbours well, meaning you can head off on a holiday or a weekend away and your property will be safe and secure. At any time you can step across to the swimming pool and share a few laps with a neighbor.
If part of your retirement story is to take up a new interest, or study a new discipline or interest, then you will develop a new network of peers and perhaps influence some old friends to join you!
Next step: plan, plan and plan some more
Once you’ve written your retirement story, it’s time to bring in the experts for advice. If you are an employee, your first stop may be a Human Resources or Organisational Development consultant that can advise you on your transition to retirement options. If you run a business, you may want to book into speak to a consultant or specialist in succession planning.
The other experts you should think about consulting once you are clear on your retirement goals include:
- A financial planner ̶ experienced in planning for retirement.
- A retirement village ̶ to start considering your lifestyle options. Some local retirement villages to explore include:
- Your family and friends ̶ test your retirement story with people you trust and that know you well. Hear from your friends and family about their thoughts, concerns and wishes for you in your retirement.
- Your general practitioner or health and fitness professional ̶ to help you assess and plan your future health.
- A life counsellor or life coach ̶ to seek independent advice on your retirement story and planning.
- The internet for a wealth of information on retirement planning and all things retirement. Seniors.gov.au is a great starting point for a national view and information on retirement in Australia. This website also hosts a wealth of information on retirement related topics.
- Business mentors or work colleagues that have already retired ̶ learn from the learned, ask what has worked well, and what hasn’t.
- Your local real estate agent or valuer to assess your current property value and improvements that may be needed to appeal to the market.
- A building assessor, such as Archicentre ̶ to provide you with a thorough appraisal of your property and the maintenance required, along with associated costs over the next decade.
As with any major life change, planning ahead is worth the investment of time. You deserve to enjoy your retirement years and live them as you want to, not as a caricature of what a retiree should be!