6 Questions to Ask Yourself While Planning for Retirement
Many women over 60 are getting ready to retire, if we haven’t retired already. But our generation of women is reinventing retirement in a way that would be unrecognizable to our parents’ generation. For many of us, our “golden years” are not going to be spent sitting quietly on rocking chairs watching TV. Instead of being sedentary, silent and shut away from the world, women over 60 are approaching our retirement years with a new spirit of focus, purpose, energy and ambition.
Planning for Retirement is Just the Beginning
For our generation of women over 60, retirement is not going to be “the end” of our careers and our productive lives, so much as the beginning of the next stage in our evolution as individuals and as contributors to our communities and our world.
If you are planning for retirement, ask yourself these questions before you take the first steps into your next stage of life:
Are you Really Ready to Quit Your Job?
One of the most surprising things that many women over 60 discover after retiring from their jobs is how adrift they feel. Some people miss the sense of structure, order and camaraderie that comes from their days at the office. Other people get a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment from their work, and do not want to let go of those positive reinforcements in their lives.
Every woman wants to make this decision for herself – ideally, we’d all love to be able to go out on top and on our own terms, rather than being laid off or forced into early retirement through circumstances that we didn’t choose. But before you quit your job, ask yourself: is there some big project that you want to finish before you go?
What do you want your legacy to be for the company or organization where you’ve spent so much of your career? How can you assist with the transition, provide training and guidance for your replacement, and do what it takes to end your career on a high note?
Do You Want to Keep Working in Retirement?
Many women over 60 are using their retirement years to start new businesses, do volunteer work, or otherwise make a contribution to the world. Working in retirement is not a “bad” thing – and retirement does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.
Many women over 60 are working in retirement not because they need the money, but because they want to make a difference and feel appreciated and put their talents, skills and connections to good use. Before you retire, give some thought to what other dreams you still want to pursue in life.
Would you like to start a business, go back to school to get a degree or certification, or make some extra money on the side by using the skills and experience you’ve gained throughout your career?
How Much Money Do You Need to Retire?
I deliberately put this question further down on the list – most people assume that money is the most important factor in deciding when to retire. And yes, money is important – but retirement is even more complex than just doing the math to figure out how much money you need to afford to retire. That said, money pays the bills.
Hopefully if you’re getting close to retirement age, you’ve been talking with a financial adviser to crunch the numbers and find out how far your retirement savings and/or pension benefits are likely to take you. Many employers provide some free or low-cost financial planning counseling as part of their retirement savings benefits for employees – ask at work if there are any financial seminars or retirement planning workshops available.
If you just want to do a brief overview of your financial picture, try a free online retirement savings calculator like this one from Fidelity that helps you get a quick snapshot of your overall retirement savings – how much you’ve saved, how much you still need to save, and how long your savings will last.
Where Do You Want to Live in Retirement?
For many women over 60, retirement is an ideal occasion to downsize and simplify their homes and lives. Do you want to sell your house and get a smaller apartment closer to your favorite city amenities? Do you want to move to a peaceful countryside cottage? Do you want to have an adventurous and culturally-rich retirement in one of the best countries to retire abroad?
How Are You Going to Keep Your Marriage Happy in Retirement?
It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true – many married couples find that retirement puts a strain on their relationship. Often one spouse will be able to retire before the other, leading to some resentment (“Why can’t I afford to retire yet, but he can?”). Other times, one spouse finds themselves falling into the role of cook/housekeeper/caretaker for a retired spouse who is suddenly home all the time and not as active as he used to be when he was working.
To make sure your marriage stays happy and strong upon entering the retirement years, consider meeting with a relationship counselor or coach to talk about your mutual goals, hopes and dreams for retirement. Look for new activities to enjoy together. Make sure that in retirement, you are working together and supporting each other and enjoying each other’s company just as you did in your other stages of life.
What Do You Want Your Retirement to be About?
Money is important, of course, but being “ready” for retirement is often about much more than money. People who feel most successful in retirement often have the strongest sense of purpose and meaning in their lives – they get meaning from being active and connected and sociable, and continuing to make a difference in other people’s lives even if their days of paid employment have come to an end.
If your life was a play, what would this new “Act” of the play be about? What dreams do you want to pursue, what experiences do you want to enjoy, what do you want to do for yourself and for others in this new stage of life?
Are you planning for retirement? What have you learned from friends and relatives who have already retired? Who are the happiest retirees you know, and why?
Wondering what to do in retirement? Why not start with your passions? Watch my interview with Nancy Collamer to find out more!