Dale Says

August 29, 2008

Five Steps to a Successful Retirement

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Dale @ 12:13 pm

Like everything else in life, successful retirement requires planning. Here, based on the author’s experiences, is a five-step guide to preparing for post-career happiness.

1. Have a plan.

It’s important to have a plan for how you will spend your free time after retirement. Don’t wait until you actually retire to start on your plan; instead, write it down now a little at a time as ideas come to you. “I’m going to golf” doesn’t count as a plan; neither does “we’re going to travel.” Figure out how you want to spend your days (and months and years) for the next 2-3 decades, put it in writing, and make changes until it makes sense to you. When you actually retire tinker with your plan as you see how your new life is developing.

The good news is that you (rather than your boss) get to decide how you will spend your time.

2. Include activities in your plan that will produce “meaningful” results.

Most of us were raised to do consequential things with our lives, and even after retiring you will probably find you need to feel like you are accomplishing something meaningful (besides relaxing, having fun, and traveling). Add at least one activity to your plan that will let you look back at the end of the year and know that you achieved something important.

The good news is that you get to decide what is meaningful.

3. Take on some (but not too many) challenges to acquire new skills or accomplish things you’ve always wanted to do.

All of us dream about what we would do “if we only had the time.” Well now you are going to have time. Learning to play the piano, for example, or hiking in a Brazilian rainforest are the types of activities that are possible when you have more control over your schedule.

The good news is you will have time to do whatever you want.

4. Be prepared for unexpected developments to force you to fine-tune your plan.

Unforeseen events like health issues, family emergencies, or friends in need could sidetrack you and force delays or changes to your retirement plan. That’s part of the deal. You might want to start an annual ritual of reviewing your plan, seeing what you were able to accomplish, and making adjustments for the next year.

The good news is you will have the time to dedicate to those situations.

5. Expect to go through your retirement savings faster than expected.

Despite careful planning and diligent saving many retirees spend more than they thought they would. Health care is a frequent culprit and inflation, travel costs, and unanticipated home repairs are others. After a year or two you may become uneasy because your income has stopped but your “outgo” hasn’t. A suggestion: at the end of each year add up your assets and see if the total is on track with where you hoped to be. If it is, you are probably doing OK.

The good news is that you will have more control over your spending and can adjust your income or expenses to get back on track.

A successful retirement requires planning, but includes a lot of good news. If you are diligent about developing and following a plan, you are likely to find (as I have) that retirement rocks!

About the author:

Dale Fehringer is a freelance writer who lives and works in San Francisco. He has been “retired” for five years and has learned that careful planning and staying active with meaningful activities is good for his mental outlook and his marriage. Dale can be reached at dalefehringer@hotmail.com.

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