Retiring happy is a two-part process, but many people tend to skip the first step: Deciding how to structure your day in retirement and what you need to make that happen. For some, it seems like a silly question – “Of course, I’m going to enjoy life when I no longer have to commute to the office.” But do you have the tools to make that happen? How to fund your retirement is just as important as how to emotionally prepare for retirement. And friendship can be key.
From adolescence to our Golden Years, friends can be crucial to an overall happy and well-lived life. And it’s no different in retirement. In fact, it may be even more important than ever for retirees or soon-to-be retirees to engage in social activities and friendships, because, while retirement can serve as a well-deserved respite from decades of working full-time, it can also be isolating and lonely for those who are used to being around people all day. Suddenly being alone or just with a spouse or partner all day can be difficult. To prevent this loneliness and boredom, it’s important to stay busy, make friends and even pick up some new habits for staying happy and healthy in retirement.
This is one of the reasons we encourage clients to really think about what they want their life to look like in retirement – before the time comes. Too often, people imagine a relaxing life away from the office but don’t really envision what that looks like. For example, they may want to travel, but do they have the funds? Do they have the right people to travel with? Do they know where they want to go? If a plan is not put in place, the actuality of what someone may want to do and can or will do can be different. And this is when friendships become a big part of a financial plan.
How to Emotionally Prepare for Retirement
You may already have a great group of friends. But consider how many of those friendships are based on work relationships. If you’ve worked anywhere for an extended period of time, you likely made many meaningful friendships. At minimum, you may have had someone to go to lunch with or share your weekend plans with in the break room. While those friendships won’t necessarily end when you retire, the nature of the relationship will inevitably be different. For example, you will have more free time than your former co-workers who are still working. While you’re looking to fill your days, they will still be at work and may not be able to head to the museum at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, for example, like you now can. That’s why it can be important to make new friends who are in your same situation, so you don’t find yourself doing everything alone.
If you’re not sure where to get started when it comes to making friends, check your area to see if there is a senior recreation center. There may also be activities and classes available at your local civic center or community college. Social media can be another good place to look. There are plenty of groups on Facebook for retirees or those with hobbies. A quick search will likely find plenty of resources you can look into.
If you have any hobbies, or plan on starting any hobbies, this too can be a great way to make friends. Remember, most hobbies can cost money. Which is why, when working with your financial advisor, you should discuss these plans and how to work them into your long-term financial plan. If you don’t, you might find that you don’t have the resources you need to dedicate to growing your hobby. For example, you may realize that you love to golf, but if you don’t have the finances for equipment, greens fees, etc., you might find yourself missing out on new friends and experiences.
When thinking about how to spend your time in retirement, don’t forget your personal interests – those things that you probably wished you had more time for during your working years. Perhaps these personal interests involve your church, a mentoring program or a charity. If you were in a professional career for many years, you may have some skills and advice you could impart on the younger members of the workforce. They may have the technical know-how from growing up with technology, but that’s no substitute for decades of experience. You may also have personal experience you can share with people from younger generations. By mentoring a child or teenager, for example, you can possibly fill a void in their life from not having a parent or grandparent present. Simply sharing some of your experiences in life can go a long way toward helping guide them in the right direction.
Volunteering can also be a fulfilling way to spend your time. Schools, animal shelters, homeless shelters, hospitals and other non-profit organizations are often looking for volunteers to help with their mission. Additionally, you may wish to contribute to the cause(s) financially. This is something else you should have as part of your financial plan. Make sure you discuss it with your financial advisor.
Another reason to engage in social relationships is so you can be independent enough that you don’t need to rely on your family as your sole source of socialization. It can be stressful to put your social calendar on your family. As much as your children and grandchildren may want you around and involved in their lives, they may be busy on a day-to-day basis and don’t have the free time that you find yourself with. By relying on loved ones too much, you may be missing out on opportunities to find social circles where you have more in common and similar hobbies. This is especially important if you find yourself living with your children and/or grandchildren. Being a part of their everyday lives can be a gift for both you and them, but having your own social life outside of the household is healthy for everyone.
Another important aspect of establishing personal relationships in retirement comes if you plan to travel or join any kind of club or organization. If you plan to travel, while you may be fine to do it alone, you may have envisioned your trip with a travel partner. If you’re unmarried or a widow/widower, you may not have the built-in travel partner you once had. Joining a travel club or organization could be a good way to find a travel buddy to see the world with. It can also be a good way to learn about the cultures and languages of the places you plan to visit on your travels. Also, through a travel club, you can often learn about the best times to go to a specific location, or discover off-the-beaten-path “local” gems and travel tours that hope to give you the best experience possible during your stay.
Planning for a fulfilling retirement is about more than saving and investing your money. How to emotionally prepare for retirement is important, and maintaining friendships as well as making new ones can be crucial to maintaining a positive outlook and preventing loneliness, boredom and depression.
However, part of the aspect of maintaining a social life does often involve having the financial resources to participate in activities and hobbies, travel and much more. When working with your financial advisor, be sure to consider these costs as part of your regular expenses, just as housing, food and other basic living needs. While you can live without these things, when you’re retired and have the time to do the activities you’ve always wanted to do, it’s important to make sure you have the money to do them.
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