Money may not buy long-term happiness, but it can provide you with opportunities you may not have without it. If you have planned properly, you will have many options open to you during retirement —you can work and continue to earn an income, or you can volunteer your time free of charge. But if you have planned poorly, you may not have any choice but to go back to work.
Assuming your retirement planning has gone smoothly and you are ready to make the transition to an enjoyable retirement lifestyle, there are a few things to think about that may help you move from the workforce into retirement. Transition is never easy, but you can make it a little more manageable and much more enjoyable if you take some time to map out the life you want to live in retirement.
1. Assess your current lifestyle
You can usually identify your true priorities by assessing where you are spending your money and your time, so start by writing down three places where you spend the most of each.
After you have completed this exercise, honestly examine those items to determine what you want out of retirement. You might be a grandparent who says that your grandchildren are the most important part of your life, but when you write down where you spend the most money or time, you find that golf is actually at the top of your list.
Consider what this means to you. Do you want to live near your grandchildren so you can see them at a moment’s notice, or would you rather split your time evenly between their home and the golf course? Figuring out where you want to spend your time will help you prioritize, and prioritizing will help you schedule your time, which in turn may help you get used to the retirement lifestyle after years in the workforce.
2. Identify your future goals
Imagine that you had all the money and all the time in the world. Now write down the top three things you would want to spend them on. You might want to take an Alaskan cruise, enroll in a class and learn a new skill, or check something off your bucket list. Once again, be honest with yourself and do some real soul searching—and maybe a little dreaming.
Once you identify what your future goals are, you can plan around them. You may find it’s easier to transition out of the workforce when you realize you’re still working toward a goal.
3. Put your plan in writing
To get from point A (your current situation) to point B (your future goals), it is important to map out the necessary steps you will have to take to get there. List your goals, priorities, and next steps, and revisit them over time to ensure you’re on track.
If you want to take a month-long vacation in Europe but need to set aside the money to do so, write down how much you need to save, how you plan to restrict your spending, and what other steps you need to take to get there. If you want to move to a new home in retirement, think about what you’ll do with your current home, whether you’ll rent or buy your new place, and whether you’ll need additional cash to do so. No matter what your goal, having a plan you can reference can keep you on track.
4. Periodically re-evaluate your plans
Over time, priorities and goals change, so you may want to reassess your lifestyle and goals on an annual basis—and adjust your plans to ensure you stay on track as life happens.
Don’t be like most people who fly by the seat of their pants and then wonder why they are frustrated and have no sense of direction. If you are stuck in a rut, things won’t change until you start doing things differently to make those changes happen. With a little planning, you can put yourself on track to a wonderful retirement.
Steve Repak is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, CFP® Board Ambassador, and financial literacy speaker. He is also an Army veteran and the author of Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training For Your Money. Follow him on Twitter: @SteveRepak