We each have a slightly different view of what retirement will be. At some age--historically around 65--we will stop working for a living and begin to transition into our second act. We will then have time and freedom of choice to do what we want to. But the vision of the ideal retirement is often very different from person to person.
The beauty of retired life is that we have the ability to customize our retirement lifestyle. But what makes us individually happy can vary, influenced by widely differing tastes, unique passions and our own personal fears. Answering these questions will give you a better understanding of what retirement means to you:
What is your retirement attitude? You could be excited about the opportunity to move into this new stage of your life, or you might be a bit unsure and nervous. Some people optimistically view a future life free from the need to work for a living, while others are more reluctant retirees. Decide whether it is more important for you to fill your day with meaningful activities or to relax and take it easy. Having a better understanding of your retirement state of mind and that of your spouse may better prepare both of you to begin your retired lives together.
What is your target retirement age? Age 65 is not necessarily the perfect retirement age for everyone. Some people have the luxury of being able to retire early, while others may choose to work additional years because they find staying in a working role satisfying due to the interaction and challenge it offers. Having a target retirement age is very helpful when it comes to calculating the savings that will be required to support your new lifestyle. Also, consider coordinating with your spouse's plans to decide if you prefer to retire together or stagger your retirements a bit.
What are your retirement priorities? Now that you have time to do all those things you have waited for, where will you begin? Make a list of the most important activities and experiences you wish to achieve. For many people, travel will play a significant part of a happy retired life. Even though you have a lot of time, it does not hurt to prioritize those places you and your spouse most want to visit. It can make sense to focus on getting to your top choices while you are healthy and able to fully enjoy the adventure.
Have you coordinated your retirement vision with your spouse? Now that you will have much more time to spend together, it can help to discuss your vision of retirement with your spouse. You may have different ideas of what retirement will encompass, how the days will be spent and what constitutes the ideal pace at which to live your retired lives. Don't be surprised if you discover you have similar as well as divergent views on what lies ahead. Try to put your vision into words and discuss it with each other. It can be helpful to identify potential areas for concern ahead of time while you are still able to make adjustments.
What will you do during retirement? Retirees are finally free to do all the things they were forced to put off because of other life demands. New retirees often have a long list of things to do and experience. But the initial rush of retirement freedom can quickly run out of steam, and you may find yourself wondering what to do to fill your days. Retirement is a long-term endeavor that could last 20 or more years. Having reached this ultimate goal, you do not want to find yourself bored or unfulfilled. Try to develop a clearer understanding of what you will do to occupy and engage yourself. Don't assume that just by escaping the working world you will automatically realize the fulfilling retired life you want.
Dave Bernard is the author of I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.