Just the word "retirement" can either conjure up feelings of exhilaration or dread. At one end of the spectrum are those for whom retirement is the permanent vacation they have dreamed of for years. Their job was a means to an end. And that end is retirement. They have plans for all the things they wanted do but couldn't when they were working. They know their days will be busy and filled with travel, time with grandkids, or hobbies they'd never gotten around to.
At the other end of the spectrum are those for whom retirement is the end of a fulfilling career and the identity they gained from their profession. Retirement can sometimes feel like a tremendous loss. These people are unsure of how they will fill the days to come without the busy schedule they maintained for so many years. They feel lost and without purpose or a sense of identity. For these individuals, it may take a long time for them to enjoy retirement. They might even experience depression after retirement. Of course, there are plenty of people who fall somewhere in between too.
When thinking about your own situation, you may be excited to retire, but have some feelings of uncertainty around what the future will look like. Finances are a concern, once the paychecks stop. And, a new routine, while exciting, might also be a little scary. You might experience some loss for the relationships you had with co-workers, and the sense of identity you had from your career.
So wherever you fall in the spectrum, there are realities you need to face when it comes to retirement. Ideally, you have prepared for retirement. And, although no one has a crystal ball, you want to try to plan as well as possible for the years when you won't be working. You will need to address your finances, how you will fill your days, and how to you will take care of yourself once you retire. Here we've outlined the things that should be on your mind as you shift towards this new chapter.
How Much Money Do I Need To Retire?
There is no magic number that will be enough for every single person. Lifestyle, marital status, geographic location, and health all play important roles in how much money you will need to retire comfortably.
In 2018, the average life expectancy for females in the U.S. was 81, and 76 for males. That means women typically spend more years in retirement, which means more money.
Women on average earn 21 percent less than men, they tend to work part-time, and they typically want less risk with their investments. They also tend to take time off during their working years to care for family members. All of that means it is more difficult for women to earn enough money to save to retire comfortably.
According to a recent survey by the Nationwide Retirement Institute, 18 percent of women expect Social Security to meet all their expenses in retirement. However, in its 2016 study “Shortchanged in Retirement,” The National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) reported that "women are 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older.” In other words, simply relying on Social Security is often not a smart plan.
In a recent NIRS study, they found 57 percent of Americans do not have any type of retirement savings account, and 77 percent of Americans fall short of conservative estimates for target retirement savings. No doubt finances are a daunting consideration for retiring.
Most women have some feelings of uncertainty around finances and retiring. Not receiving a paycheck can feel risky. Since there are so many things that could change, it's hard to feel prepared for them all. You don't know exactly how long you will live. You don't know what your future medical expenses might be. You don't know what the cost of living will be in 10 years, let alone 20. All of these uncertainties can make retirement seem risky. You have to asses whether you take less money monthly from Social Security by retiring at age 62 (the minimum age to receive Social Security benefits) or do you work longer to receive higher monthly checks? Does your partner have a pension that will transfer or terminate upon their death if you outlive them? How will your investments fair in the years to come? All of these financial questions should be thought out prior to retiring. The best way to minimize risks is to plan and be prepared. Seek out a financial advisor and be prepared to answer tough questions about your lifestyle and finances to ensure you have a sound financial plan for your retirement years and beyond.
The reward for planning and saving for your retirement are peace of mind, comfort, security, and most of all, living out your own dreams for your retirement. Being financially stable in the retirement years means you can finally do all the things you dreamed of when you were working. Whether your dream is to travel, spend more time with family, or pursue hobbies or interests, not having to worry about every penny you spend could make retirement the time of your life. Of course, there are ways to stretch your entertainment budget, and still have fun. And being mindful of ways to save on everyday expenses will always help to make the most of what you are able to retire with.
What Will Life Be Like Once I Retire?
You won't have to set your alarm.
You probably won't see the same people every day like you did at work.
You will have to make an effort to keep a schedule and make plans to see friends.
You may have to make more effort to stay active.
You could get a dog. There are some great ones for retirees.
You might move near family.
You could move to the city or the country.
You could take advantage of sweet perks for people 55 and up.
You may be busier than ever doing all the things you didn't have time for when you worked!
You can be as busy or boring as you want.
You may find it difficult to fall into a routine after you retire. After years of work and maintaining a set schedule, it may be difficult to navigate your way to a new routine. You may become lonely without the interactions you were accustomed to at your job. You may miss the sense of identity and purpose you had at your old career. Not everyone has an easy time with transitions, and retiring is a huge transition in life. And, if you move to a new location, whether to be close to family or to save money, you will have to build a new social network.
The reward is a new and (hopefully) more fun life! The reward for all those years of hard work is to finally do what YOU want with your time. Your days will no longer be tied to the 9-5 Monday to Friday work schedule which left the weekend for running all your errands and grocery shopping to get ready for the next week. You can explore new activities and hobbies, as well as more heavily pursue your interests from your career years. You can spend time with grandchildren and spoil them before returning them to their parents. You can travel during off peak times and take advantage of cheaper pricing and special last minute deals. You have a blank canvas on which to create a new life. But, you should think long and hard about all the details of your new life, and create a plan to make your vision a reality once you retire. It won't happen without some direction and effort on your part.
Will I Stay Healthy After Retirement?
Retirees have additional leisure time that may lead to healthier lifestyle and habits, according to a 2014 article in The Journal Of Human Resources. This is a positive outlook on health after retirement — people have more free time to be active and lead healthy lifestyles when they're not beholden to their jobs. As we know now, eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise can help prevent illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and even some cancers.
But in another article from The Journal Of Human Resources, a study concluded "that changes in retirement expectations are driven to a much greater degree by changes in health than by changes in income or wealth." Other research suggests that retirees face increased risk for mobility difficulties, difficulty with daily activities, increased illness conditions, and increased mental health issues.
While there is conflicting information from the studies done as to how retirement directly affects health, what is clear is that the lifestyle you adopt as a retiree can significantly affect your health — either positively or negatively. It's important to evaluate your lifestyle plans going into retirement and make sure that your new routine involves healthy habits in order to prevent avoidable health woes following retirement.
The best thing you can do for your health when you retire is to adopt (or continue) a healthy lifestyle. Maybe you will feel better after retirement just because some of the issues that contribute to poor health, such as stress, are diminished in retirement. If you coped with stress using alcohol, then you may experience better health when you retire, since your alcohol consumption will hopefully go down (even though you won't be stuck at the office during happy hour anymore).
However, if you had a job that kept you moving, and you retire to sit on your couch all day, retirement may have a negative affect on your health. Like so many things in life, the choices you make on a daily basis can affect your health, for better or for worse. The fact is, when you retire, you will have more time to exercise. And you don't have to spend a lot to stay active. Eating healthy may be easier as well, as you will have more time to cook your own healthy meals, rather than eating out or grabbing fast food. But you have to make the choice and the effort to make these things happen. The rewards for your healthy, active lifestyle are feeling good, enjoying good health, and being able to do the things you dreamed of in retirement. As the saying goes, if you have your health, you have everything!