Dieters, frustrated novelists and daydreamers all know that there’s a big difference between intention and action, action and follow through. Those preparing for retirement do, too. So the next time you hear yourself or a soon-to-retire friend say that they’re ready to let some big things go, take pause.
Then ask: “Really?”
For those serious about retirement done right, the preparation isn’t just financial. You can try golfing away the rest of your life or resting on the laurels of your work accomplishments. But the experience won’t be nearly as rich or rooted in your new reality.
So what should you prepare to part with? And can you do it? Let’s see if you resonate with or resist these three realities.
Say sayonara to stuff
If you really believe that he or she who dies with the most toys wins, then maybe you haven’t thought much about whether that comes with an eternal storage locker.
The fact is that excess stuff will only weigh you down, especially if you want to travel or spend more time tending to your relationships (more on that in a bit).
Retirement marks an ideal time to take inventory. Just how many trinkets have you accumulated? Do you really need them? (In most cases, probably not) What keeps you from parting with them — logistics, emotions or some combination?
Taking the first step to thin the herd of excess possessions, especially collectibles and big-ticket items, can also add to bottom line retirement savings.
You are no longer your career
Retiring means a welcome end to overachieving and borrowed identity. We are not our work selves, and getting back eight hours a day leaves many folks surprisingly stumped in terms of how to redeem it.
And no wonder. If you’ve worked practically your entire life to reach a career goal, win the awards, gain the status and reap the benefits, then chances are a good deal of your identity is tied up in your career. Plenty tied up. Letting go of a rewarding occupation is tough.
Further: Are you ready to give up the adrenaline rush of hard work? Or the recognition that comes with someone asking, “What do you do?” Or the fulfillment your job gave you?
If you’re not so sure, then you’re in good company. A survey cited in USA Today found that 47% of retirees still worked in retirement, with a whopping 72% of pre-retirees stating they would want to keep working.
Indeed, some people never retire in the traditional sense; athletes commonly come out of retirement, too. In figuring out what works for you, keep in mind that however you structure your golden years, immersing too much identity in your career will raise questions you won’t want to ignore.
Read more: Here’s how much the average American 60-year-old holds in retirement savings — how does your nest egg compare?
All that disposable income
A top reason many retirees don’t want to give up work has to do with income security. What if you get sick? Your partner loses their job? Or another emergency lands that means you need cash on hand? Having a job often takes the sting out of such scenarios.
Meeting with a financial adviser before retirement — decades before, if possible — is crucial. They can help you determine a dollar savings target to ensure the quality of life you want, and figure out a balance between checking off bucket list items and saving for emergencies.
At present, 48% of workers believe they don’t make enough money) to be able to save for retirement, according to statistics cited by annuity.org. What’s worse, 22% of Americans only have $5,000 or less saved for retirement, while 15% have nothing at all. Taken together, that’s more than a third of the workforce.
While Americans struggle with low savings, Social Security, pensions (where applicable) and other financial assets can provide financial relief. On the other side, expenditures that escaped notice for years — true money wasters such as unused memberships and subscriptions, for example — are now ripe for a bit of culling.
True retirement wealth: It’s all about relationships
New retirees who’ve hit their 60s often struggle with the belief that their best years are behind them. The idea of cutting ties with work, and its myriad distractions, can be terrifying. Why is this?
Consider for a moment the strong bonds we form with work colleagues, and what happens to those when we retire. This truth holds the key to a rewarding, exciting, happy retirement: You now have time to double and triple down on relationships.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development has followed two groups of men over 80 years, making it one of the most remarkable longitudinal studies in history. Its most recent conclusion is irrefutable: The people most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.
Retirement is a time to give up the stress of work and instead stress relationships. If you spent your career hoping to strike it rich, but didn’t quite get there, this is the way to do it. Money can buy a quality of life, but not quality time.
If you’re financially secure, good for you. The race is run. Now you’re in an ideal position to reap investment rewards of a different kind.
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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.