Reprinted from: http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/2014/09/23/the-4-rs-of-retirement
Most people who retire in their 60s can expect to live another 20 or even 30 years. It’s a whole new life in which you no longer have to answer to your boss or your children.
This is not your grandfather’s retirement. We all now have an opportunity for new adventures, relationships and perhaps a new place to live. But it doesn’t happen by itself. Whatever your dreams, there are four main issues you need to address before you can relax comfortably into retirement.
1. Resources. Money may be the root of all evil, but it’s also the foundation of a happy retirement. Do you think you can live on Social Security alone? Of course, it’s possible. According to the Social Security Administration, almost a quarter of elderly married couples and almost half of unmarried individuals rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income. The problem is, you’ll just be scraping by. The latest figures show that the average monthly benefit for a retired worker is $1,294, which is about the same as the poverty line for a couple with no dependents.
Money issues generally do not resolve themselves if you ignore them. So no matter how averse you are to opening your credit card bill or talking to an investment adviser, to survive in retirement you need to assess where you stand financially. Then put yourself on a plan. Paying off credit card debt is a good start. And once your kids are finally through college it’s time to start doing some serious retirement saving.
2. Reset. Many people retire from a job and then go on living basically the same life they did when they were working. That’s fine, if that’s the way you want it. But a lot of people simply follow the path of least resistance and end up squandering their best chance for a happy, fulfilled life. Don’t be one of those retirees who wonders, “If I have nothing to do, how come I’m so busy?” They do errands, poke around the house and putter around the yard. The years slip by, and they have nothing to show for them.
Retire by design, not by default. Decide on the new life you want, then go after it, whether it’s moving to the sunbelt, journeying overseas, babysitting your grandchildren or finally following your dream to open a craft shop, buy a sailboat or learn how to paint. The point is: don’t resign yourself to whatever comes along. Hit the reset button, and do what you’ve always wanted to do.
3. Reason. You used to be a lawyer, accountant or teacher. Now what are you going to be? You could be a golfer, volunteer, world traveler or a grandma. Of course you can do more than one thing, just as you did when you were working while also a mom and a PTA member. But you want an identity, especially if you retire early. You need something more than just saying, “I‘m retired.”
Those of us who have retired have already made whatever difference we’re going to make in our professional lives. The challenge now is to make a difference outside of work with your family, community or in developing your own skills or consciousness. So give yourself a reason to get out of bed in the morning. It can be a part-time job, like the golfer who works three days a week in the pro shop. It could be volunteer work, like my friend who ushers at an art-house theater and also sees shows for free and has met a few of the live acts. Many retirees help raise their grandchildren, which allows them to get to know the kids while making it possible for the parents to continue their careers. It’s hard to think of a project more useful than that.
4. Relationships. One danger that comes with retirement is the loss of friends. People move away, get sick and develop new interests. It’s important to hang onto as many of your old friends as possible, and then make some new friends along the way. The activities you do outside your home are typically the best way to meet new people in retirement.
Aging experts point out that one metric associated with a long life is an active social life. Being engaged in a community not only gives people a sense of connection and security, but also supports healthy activities and helps prevent negative behaviors, from drinking and drugs to depression or anxiety. So invite someone over for dinner or out for a walk. It’s more fun that way.