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7 tips for transitioning to retirement

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We’ve all seen retirement parties depicted in movies or on television — festive decorations, goodbye gifts, congratulatory speeches, and a smiling retiree happy to put their working days behind them. What we don’t see, however, is all the planning leading up to someone’s decision to retire or the anxiety that can come after such a major life change. There are many factors — both financial and psychological — to consider when thinking about retiring. We’ve created this guide to help ease the transition to retirement.

1. Review your finances

The most difficult question to answer about retirement is can you afford it? Your retirement transition plan should include a meeting with a financial planner. They can assess your current savings and assets and answer questions you have about withdrawing funds from an IRA or employer-sponsored savings plan. A few things to think about while reviewing your finances include:

  • The cost of where you want to live
  • Your health and life expectancy
  • The assets you want to leave for your children 
  • The kind of lifestyle you want in retirement

2. Plan your budget

After you’ve assessed your finances, follow that up by creating a budget. You’ll be on a fixed income once you retire, so it’s important to set a realistic budget. This can be hard if you’re used to spending freely, and it may take some time to adjust your mindset. Another thing to keep in mind is that retirement means a shift from earning and saving to spending. Watching your bank account shrink without paychecks coming in to replenish it can cause anxiety, even if you have enough money saved to cover your expenses. Consider using a budgeting app that can track your transactions and provide peace of mind that you’re living within your means. 

3. Think about how you’ll spend your free time

You might be wondering, what do retirees do all day? That all depends on the person — retirement looks different for everyone depending on health, finances, and personality types. If you don’t currently have a retirement bucket list of things you’d like to do, write down the first 10 things that come to your mind, regardless of practicality. This could be anything from learning a new sport or skill to traveling or catching up on books you’ve been meaning to read. Having a few tentative plans might help you get excited and squash any fears that retirement could be boring. 

4. Ease into it

Transitioning to retirement doesn’t have to happen all at once — dip a toe in the retirement waters by cutting your hours from full to part-time, taking a sabbatical, or going on a longer-than-usual vacation. This gives you a chance to make sure you can live on your retirement budget while still having some employment stability. You’ll also see how well you do without the confines of your traditional work schedule — do you love the extra free time or is it overwhelming? If you’ve been considering moving to a new city or state in retirement, an extended visit allows you to give it a test run before embarking on a costly move. 

5. Make plans with people

With no workday to provide human interaction, people can sometimes feel isolated and lonely when they retire. Make it a priority to connect with friends and family. Reconnect with people you haven’t seen in a while, and make plans to catch up over lunch, or take a trip to visit loved ones out of town. Make new friends at senior meet-ups or classes. Not only is it important to stay connected to others for your mental health but you may find a group of people eager to have retirement adventures with you! 

6. Give yourself grace

It’s not unusual for people to find that getting used to retirement is more difficult than expected. Many people look forward to retirement for a long time, and the fantasy might not align with reality. Some people get their sense of importance or self-worth from their career, and when that ends, it can make a person feel like they’re lacking a purpose. Adjusting to retirement and finding personal fulfillment is an evolving journey. While retirement may give you more time to focus on doing what makes you happy, that doesn’t mean it always does. Even a positive change can be overwhelming and scary. Be patient with yourself.

7. Prioritize your health

It’s important to pay attention to your mental health — if you think you may have retirement depression or anxiety, consider getting professional help. Good physical health is also necessary for an enjoyable retirement. You need to feel well in order to do everything on that bucket list. Plus, good health helps reduce healthcare costs. If you’ve ever said things like “I’d exercise more often if only I had the time” or “I’d eat better, but I don’t have time to cook,” well, now you do. Take excellent care of your physical and mental wellbeing so you can fully enjoy every second of the retirement you worked so hard for — you deserve it!

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