No, you're not the only soon-to-be retiree who's reluctant to leave your working days behind. What we do is so tied up in who we are that it can be difficult to picture yourself without a 9-to-5 job, even if part of that picture involves daily beach naps and sunset sails. Where some retirees see carefree days and endless possibilities, you might be staring at a blank calendar worried that you're going to go crazy without meetings, deadlines, and tasks that fill you with purpose.
Answering these three questions will help you start to fill in those blanks and rethink what your retirement can be.
1. What does my ideal week look like?
Grab a calendar or a sheet of paper and divide every day of the week into three sections: Morning, Afternoon, and Night. Then, put at least one activity in every box. These don't have to be bucket list items. Start small. Schedule a post-breakfast walk with your spouse on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. Reserve some afternoon time for reading. Find out when your retired friends are free and book a weekly dinner or some time on the tennis court.
Eventually, your daily boxes are going to fill up faster than you might expect. Even better, because you've put these items on a schedule, you'll be much more likely to go out and do them. Retirees who spend their days on the couch muttering, "I'll get to that," often don't. The more intentional you are with your time, the more successful your retirement is likely to be.
2. What have I observed about other retirees?
Although the classic image of retirement is a life of financial security and leisure, many of us have seen a less positive side of retirement as well. If your parents started arguing more once dad retired or if one of your newly retired friends is having money problems, you might worry that your own retirement is going to be less of an extended vacation and more of an endless worry.
Take a piece of paper and divide it in half. On one side, write down all of the things you've observed from people whom you consider successful retirees. How do those folks spend their time? Did they stay in the family home or move someplace new? What are their relationships like? What hobbies do they enjoy? How have they strengthened their connections to their communities?
On the other side of the paper, write down the things you've observed from less successful retirees. What words would you use to describe their mindsets and emotions? Do they seem intellectually stimulated? Are they in good health? Do they get the support they need from their social networks?
When you've finished with your lists, you should have a clearer picture of what kinds of attitudes and habits you want to incorporate into your own retirement and some potential pitfalls to avoid.
3. What's really important to me?
Even people who love their jobs rarely love working. They love the way that their jobs allow them to put their top skills to good use, the opportunities for creativity and self-expression, the feeling that they're contributing to society, and the bonds they build with other people. They also appreciate how their hard work provides a happier and more fulfilling life for them and the people they love the most.
Make a list of all the ways that your career has brought out the best in you and allowed you to put your values in action. Then, add in the people you want to spend your time with in retirement, the places you want to go, the things you want to do. Look over your complete list and you'll start making some surprising connections that could lead you to some exciting new endeavors: family vacations, volunteer opportunities, talents you want to develop into skills, skills you want to use to create a new company.
For couples who are already starting to think about retirement, this is a good overview of how to discuss and manage the challenges you will face when retiring. Don't go into retirement without a plan!
Ready to go deeper on these and other important questions? Make an appointment to work through our interactive Retirement Coaching Tools. We're confident that our planning process will give you a new, more positive, and more empowering perspective on your retirement.