As children we were easily scared by a ghoulish costume, a haunted house, or a truly ghastly ghost story, especially during the Autumn season when the days are getting shorter and the nights longer. Then we grew up and realized that there are more scary things in life than our dad in a sheet making boo noises on Halloween.
During midlife it is easy to regulate retirement preparation to the back burner during the crazy days of teenagers, aging parents, career promotion or pivots, friendships, and community involvement. Preparation can be scary for a new phase of life, and many of us let the overwhelm paralyze us from taking action, thinking we’ll start planning next January, or when school starts again, or after we’ve met with our financial advisor.
Yearly meetings with your financial planner are not enough to prepare you for the next phase of life. Now, don’t get me wrong – understanding your finances, decreasing your expenses, and downsizing your home are all important factors in retirement.
Besides daydreaming wistfully about “someday” or talking to friends about their financial plans over coffee, the actual planning beyond money in retirement never seems to happen. Many of my clients confess to putting off planning because it seemed daunting.
Stepping into this season is joyful and exciting. When working with clients, I share that the first steps to a successful retirement are as easy as P.I.E.
Without the 9-5 demands of your career to build your days around, how will you use your time in retirement? Will you spend more time on hobbies such as gardening, scuba diving, composing, or painting?
Would you like to take trips? How often? Do you want to be a sightseer, a volunteer, or both? What about exercise? Friends? Grandkids? How about earning a degree, becoming a mentor, or writing a book? What new challenges will you embrace to stay young?
One of my favorite activities as a coach is to help my clients narrow in on how they’d like to spend their time during retirement. Cindy, a client who was able to retire a bit earlier than initially planned because of good investments, decided to center her time on daily yoga, coffee with friends, writing a book, and training her two Goldendoodle puppies (dogs are her passion).
Sandra, a retired investment banker, booked four international trips in the year after she retired because she hadn’t been able to travel while working. As an amateur medieval European historian, she had all the sites in Europe planned out before her official retirement day dawned.
Lisa was very active in her community before retirement. She transitioned directly from full-time work into full-time volunteering with three different organizations (and is the happiest person you will ever meet).
All three of these women had a different vision for their retirement, but the key to their happy transition from the 9-5 world was a plan.
Studies show that retired adults stay young by filling their social calendar, exercising, keeping their brains sharp with continuous learning, and setting new goals. A range of studies from the Center for a Secure Retirement to the Huffington Post shows one of the most important factors in staying young is to have goals in every area of your life including physical, relationship, and education goals.
So, as you step off the career rollercoaster, what are some new goals you’d like to accomplish, and what are your priorities?
Choosing goals is the first step, and probably the easiest. We all make a list of resolutions in January when we’re all full of sweets and optimism for the new year ahead of us, only to find our motivation peter out by February.
So, as you think about retirement, it may be easy for you to rattle off a list of goals for when you have more free time, especially if you’ve been putting off things that speak to your heart. However, thinking or dreaming about your priorities is not enough. You need to take intentional steps toward the creation of your new life.
The key is action.
For example, when I first met with Sandra (the client I mentioned above) she was two years from retirement. When we talked about her goals, one of the first things she mentioned was wanting to go to Europe “someday.” I asked her where in Europe, and she answered, “Everywhere.”
I probed a bit more and asked if she had an updated passport (she wasn’t sure). So, we discussed how she could take intentional steps towards her priorities in retirement, one of which was traveling. We wrote a list of 12 tasks, one that could be completed each month for the next year, and then we would reassess.
That initial list included updating her passport, making a list of countries she wanted to visit by importance, buying guidebooks, researching hotels and transportation, and booking a plane ticket.
Cindy decided to research what type of dog she was going to adopt as her retirement present to herself, watch videos and read books on training dogs, and register for a weekend class on writing fiction.
Lisa met unofficially, and then officially, with the directors where she volunteered to feel out positions that would be opening. Together they discussed what she wanted her schedule to look like, and which tasks she did not want to take on as a full-time volunteer. She did all of this before retiring from her demanding career in education, setting small goals.
Design your intentional retirement plans by planning backward. If your ultimate priority in retirement is to hike the Appalachian Trail or climb Mount Kilimanjaro, what are the steps you need to take to get there? Start building up body resistance by weightlifting, researching trail food, and planning your trip now.
If you’d like a more comprehensive social network or even to start dating again, how can you go about meeting people now? Could you join a book club or take a cooking class? These are things that a coach can help you problem-solve.
Just like in adulthood, there are seasons to retirement as well. You may have experienced young parenthood through the empty nest or started as a novice at your company and are now managing an entire division. It is the same with retirement. You will go through transitions during your retirement years that require you to pivot.
As part of our plan when discussing your priorities, we also look at the seasons of retirement. These seasons are a bit different for everyone.
Perhaps you’d like to spend the first couple of years during retirement helping with grandchildren like my client Betsy. After speaking with her son’s family, she volunteered to pick up the kids from school two days a week, drive them to activities, provide snacks, and drive them home.
This provided her son a break from carpool duty and gave Betsy one-on-one time with her grandkids. Both children were in middle school and as they moved onto high school and no longer required rides, Betsy planned to travel during the winter months as well as continue teaching yoga and golfing.
Lisa, my client who became a full-time volunteer, decided that after a couple of years of volunteering, she would like to transition to a part-time role to spend more time with her now retired husband and best friends as well as explore some continuing education classes and travel.
What might these seasons look like for you?
Ready to start working on Priorities, be Intentional, and Embrace your season?
As a life and career coach, I guide women who want more out of life and find themselves dissatisfied in some undefinable way. We always get to the root of the issue. There’s so much more to talk about! If you’d like more free tips and inspiration, visit my website, deborahvoll.com. Sign up for my free weekly newsletter and listen to my interviews with fascinating guests on my podcast, “Calm the Chaos.”
Now, it’s your turn! What kind of retirement planning are you doing? How have you prioritized your goals and made intentional plans? What is your experience with time in your retirement? Never enough hours in the day? Does time drag? Tell me in the comments box below so we can all share and learn together.