Bridging the Gap

Ray’s Take: After years of working, planning and saving, many retirees are well-prepared financially to stop going to work in order to earn a living. But many are less prepared for how to fill the space previously filled by work.

Most of us envision retirement as that golden age at a predetermined point in the future where we’ll be free to do all the things we want to do but don’t have time for now. Do you have actual activities that you’re already trying to fit into your routine? Or are they more idealized, hazy, abstract things that you intend to figure out once you reach retirement?

A great question to ask yourself before you retire is: What do I feel like I missed out on? Or What resonates with me now that I want to know more about? Let that be a guide to some things you might want to begin exploring before taking the retirement plunge.

It’s hard to break the routine of a career, but now is the time to get your feet wet in other areas. Retirement may provide more time to do the things we’ve thought about for years, but it still doesn’t provide magic pixie dust – or energy – that will give us the motivation to engage in those activities. Retirement tends to magnify existing behaviors and habits. Putting a foundation in place now to build on later can be one of the best retirement plans you make.

As I have said before, retirement is nothing short of creating an entirely new identity. The transition from full-time worker bee to fully retired can be far more challenging than asset accumulation. If you’re already squeezing in some interests, then you’re ahead of the game. Building a bridge by starting on interesting and fulfilling projects or exploring interests now, before you retire, can make the transition a lot smoother.

Retirement is about more than money. It’s also about creating a new, engaged and fulfilling life.

Dana’s Take: The retirement decision is as much, or maybe more, psychological as it is financial. Some people enjoy what they do so much that it could be unwise to retire without a solid replacement activity or passion established before leaving the workforce. Others are waiting avidly for the day when they can walk out the door of work for the last time and celebrate. Knowing which personality type you are will help you plan the best way to build your retirement lifestyle.

Are you already involved in hobbies or volunteering and passionate about it? If not, it may be unreasonable to expect that you’ll suddenly develop that passion the day after you retire. The most successful retirees plan their post-working lives.

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