3 Tips for Preparing for Retirement (It’s About More than the Money)

By Nick Gertsema, AIF®

One of the most difficult stumbling blocks when it comes to retirement is the fact that you’ve never done it before. You spend years preparing and making plans for something that you’ve never experienced. Then one day you’re expected to know how you’d like to live for the rest of your life when you reach full retirement age.

You’re expected to know how you’ll spend your time, what you want to do, and how you’re going to pay for it. It reminds me of going to college at 18 and the expectation that I knew what I wanted to do for the next 50 years!

The truth is, just like high school graduates, most retirees don’t know what their retirement will look like until they arrive there. A big part of preparing for retirement is coming up with an income plan for how you’re going to fund your retirement and all of the “What-Ifs” that come with it.

We’ve helped many clients retire and have learned from their experiences. Here are three things that you can do to prepare yourself for retirement.

Work to Define Yourself Without Your Profession

From the time we are young, we are conditioned to prepare for the next step in life. Elementary school prepares us for middle school which prepares us for high school. We work hard in high school and college to prepare us for our careers. Once we have a job, we work to make ourselves dependable and indispensable.

What happens when we leave and then we no longer have a team that depends on us?

Retirees have often never considered this. Some people define themselves by their jobs: the family practice doctor, the go-to person in their company, the business owner. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something you should think through before that last time you clock out.

One way to engage this question is to think about what you enjoy the most about work. If you enjoy being a leader or being part of an organization, look into some of the service clubs in your area. Personally, I am a proud Rotarian and would love to be able to dedicate myself full-time to my club. There are always opportunities for someone with business acumen who would like to be involved.

Some clients truly miss the social aspect of going to work and being able to interact with people all day. When they retire they lose their social outlet. If this is your concern, start getting involved in activities or a community center before retirement. It’s important to have relationships outside of work.

If you already have a group of friends from work that you hang out with, pay attention to your conversations. Are you primarily focused on talking about things related to work? If so, that may be a source of frustration once you are retired.

Start Dating Your Spouse

If you’re married, use the time leading up to retirement to start dating again. When you first met your future spouse, you spent time getting to know as much about them as possible before marrying them.

The years that followed were filled with things that may have prevented you from spending as much quality time together as you had hoped. Between raising a family, having a career, and all of the other things that can get in life’s way, the time with just each other may be precious little.

Make it a point to have some one-on-one time with your husband or wife. Go out to dinner, away from your home, and have some discussions on your ideas of what the perfect retirement looks like.

Surprisingly, it is not uncommon for married couples to have drastically different opinions of what the ideal retirement looks like. One wants to travel, the other would rather move closer to the grandkids. One wants an RV and to travel the country, the other wants to downsize and stay put.

Start putting together some ideas and plans for retirement. After all, you will be spending more time with each other once you are both retired. Whether it is traveling or some home improvements, it’s a good idea to have some goals set for things you want to accomplish early in retirement. Making sure that you are both on the same page will help ease one of the largest transitions in life.

Take a Trial Run

After many years of working, you may have accrued an extensive amount of vacation time. Take some time off and do a “stay-cation.” Stay home for a week or two and see how it goes.

You may find that the way you choose to spend your time is very different than what you thought it would be. You may think that retiring is four tee times a week, but learn that you’d rather relax at home.

Unfortunately, some couples learn that they are not quite ready to be around each other 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s okay. This is a good chance to see how things work at home and then adjust your retirement plans accordingly.

In my opinion, the most important thing to remember is that you’ve worked for years to earn the retirement that you want, now you just need to define what that is. Your retirement may be completely different than someone else’s, and that makes sense – it’s yours!

What’s Your Story?

I love hearing from clients who spend their winters in Arizona as much as the clients who chose to downsize and spoil their grandkids as much as possible. Your retirement will look very different in year one than in year ten – this is going to be a story, not the static sum of a math equation.

At Gertsema Wealth, our job as financial advisors is to help make plans to fund your retirement. Your job is to make plans to take full advantage of it.

Let’s make a plan!  


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