Getting Ready Mentally for Retirement

Long before leaving your job, start thinking about what you want your retirement to be like. Make a to-do list and fill in your calendar for the period immediately after you retire, talk to your husband or partner about your goals, and stay in close touch with your financial advisor.

There’s more to retirement planning than getting your finances in order. Preparing mentally for this new time of life can be almost as important as how much you’ve accumulated in your 401(k).

Whether you continue working part time, throw yourself into charity projects, travel around the world, or putter in the garden, “retirement is a huge change,” says Kathleen Gurney, an expert in the psychology of money management and author of Your Money Personality.
Baby-boomer women will bring the same innovations to retirement that they brought to the workplace.
Saying goodbye to the office
It sounds fantastic — and it is, in some respects. But for many women, leaving the working world behind can also lead to feelings of isolation or disconnectedness, or even a questioning of identity.

How will it really feel to be home without the IT staff to help you — or the company of your co-workers? And what if you decide to relocate? Sure, you can’t wait to get to your dream house in the mountains. But you’ll still need to adapt to a new community without the anchor of work and familiar neighbors.

“Women have been helping men adapt to these changes for generations,” Gurney says. “Now it’s time for us to develop our own great retirement habits.”
A different kind of retirement
In the next decade or so, women will be retiring in greater numbers than ever before. And baby-boomer women will bring the same innovations to retirement that they brought to the workplace, predicts demographic expert Maddy Dychtwald, author of Cycles: How We Will Live, Work, and Buy. In other words, it won’t be enough to just retire — we’re going to rewire.

To prepare for such a big transition, you need to focus on what you really want from retirement. As you do that, keep in mind the following advice.
1. Reinvent before you retire
Remember the way you planned your work moves, from laying the groundwork for a promotion to rolling out a new product line? You need the same sort of script for yourself, right now.

“I tell women to start filling in their calendars for their first weeks and months of retirement at least three months before it’s going to happen,” Gurney says.

Well before that, you need to decide what your retirement will look like. Do you want to consult? Start your own business? Sit on a board? Become more involved in the charities you already belong to? Many times, laying the foundation for these moves is a lot easier while you’re still on the job and have access to vital contacts and support.

At the same time that you’re setting these lofty goals, don’t forget about the “me time” you’ve earned and deserve. Do you want to learn a new language? Take up tennis? Take a nap?

“I make my clients write down everything they want to do — no matter how grand or small,” Gurney says. “That way, when the time comes, they’ve got a huge to-do list to contend with. The sense of loss from leaving the office isn’t so great.”
2. Start talking to your spouse now
Women often focus more on their husband, kids, or elderly parents than on themselves and their hopes for the next phase of their life. What’s more, many still allow their husbands to dominate retirement spending decisions.

The two of you should start the retirement conversation now. Both of you should make clear what you want to do. Then you can figure out how you’ll use the pool of money available. Your spouse may not realize that you look at things differently; but the more you discuss and negotiate, the more progress you’re likely to make.

And keep in mind that you’re probably not used to having your husband around most days. While the two of you may enjoy doing more things together once you’re both retired, it’s probably a good idea to talk about staying out of each other’s way too.
3. Power through
Any big change can bring feelings of discomfort and anxiety. And the transition to retirement can be especially tough if you’re doing it earlier than expected because of a layoff or buyout, or for health reasons.

Sometimes the best remedy is to simply push through that anxiety and do what needs to be done. “You’re not alone,” Gurney says. “You will live through this.” The key is to focus on what will truly make you happy and not to give in to the negative feelings.
4. Call on your support system
You probably have a lot of people who can support you as you prepare for this new adventure. Now is the time to reach out to family and friends, some of whom you probably haven’t had time to see in a while.

Also, be sure to meet regularly with your financial advisor during the transition period. Knowing where you stand financially can help you feel more secure about the decisions you make just before, and during, retirement.

Key points:

  • Start thinking about what you want to do in retirement, well in advance of leaving your job or closing your business.
  • Write out a lengthy to-do list and fill in your calendar for the first few weeks, or even months, of your retirement.
  • Discuss retirement goals with your spouse and how you will direct the money you’ve saved.
  • Call on friends, family, and your financial advisor for help and support.

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