Retirement is not an ending, but rather the start of a new life journey. In recent years, an entirely new definition of retirement has begun to take hold. It’s a definition that sees a shift away from the old model, which focused on rest and relaxation, yet, often felt more like purposelessness, isolation and general physical and mental decline. The “new” retirement shifts us away from the concept of retirement as a gradual decrease in the fullness of life. Today’s retirees regard this as a time of personal growth, an opportunity to fulfill life-long dreams, and a chance to look for new and deepened meaning in their lives. In order to assure a good level of retirement satisfaction, some thorough introspection is crucial.
There are many factors to consider when contemplating whether you’re properly prepared for this transition. Having a plan in place before you exit the workplace can dramatically improve your chances at maintaining a continued sense of purpose and engagement with the world. Transitioning to retirement isn’t just about the money. A seamless transition from the working world to a fulfilling retirement involves planning from both a financial and a lifestyle perspective.
So how do you know if you’re ready to retire?
Sufficient money is the first requirement for a successful retirement. A clear understanding of your retirement goals, income and expenses will help determine if your financial resources are adequate. Knowledge of your financial issues, good financial planning, and confidence that you have the necessary resources all contribute to a sense of security in retirement.
Aside from economic factors, there are personal factors to consider when determining how much money will be required to adequately fund your retirement. Our retirement lifestyle, whether we plan to pursue further education, travel, or purchase a new home; all factor into how much money we will need. And finally, unforeseen events such as health care, adult children returning home, and family financial difficulties, all need to be considered. The degree to which we feel free from care giving responsibilities will help determine our readiness to retire. If we have people who are dependent upon us, we may feel the need to put retirement on hold at least until the burden of responsibility lightens.
Work provides many benefits, and before we leave the workplace we must consider how we can replace some of the benefits that work provides. Perhaps the most important benefit that work provides is financial remuneration. Many retirees continue working in some capacity after they retire. For some it is because of financial need, for others it is to remain engaged, or perhaps to receive medical benefits.
Our work is also a major factor in creating our self-concept. For many, our role in the labour force defines not only what we do, but to some degree, who we are. For many of us, we have come to see ourselves as simply the manager, the worker, the supervisor, etc. The degree to which we can let go of this former narrow self-definition will ultimately determine how well we embrace this new stage of life. Our readiness to retire can also be measured by how prepared we are to disengage from our old self-concept and create a new definition of ourselves that will serve us in our new life.
Other benefits that work provides are structure, regular social contact, mental stimulation, and fulfillment. The need for these does not just go away when we retire. One’s attitude about retirement can impact our ability to replace these benefits that we used to get from our work. We need to regard retirement as a time of tremendous personal growth as opposed to simply aging. The attitude that retirement is a time of personal reflection, growth, involvement and an opportunity to live a meaningful life is one that will help determine our readiness to leave our work.
Another factor that might influence our readiness to retire is our current life satisfaction. Successful retirement usually happens when the retiree doesn’t expect to forfeit any of the fulfillment and happiness they experienced when working. Rather, they see these positive elements in their lives as increasing in retirement. They look ahead with hope rather than considering the past as the best time of their life. Successful retirees generally apply their positive work attitudes toward their retirement as well.
Leisure activities offer increased motivation, creativity, exercise, socialization, and relaxation. While leisure is a fundamental human need, it need not become the focal point of retirement living. Leisure can lose its ability to provide pleasure and rejuvenation when it takes centre stage. Any activity that provides diversion and rejuvenation can be considered leisure.
Having a lifestyle plan in place before you exit the workplace will help you move from the structured world of the workplace to the less structured world of retirement. The transition can be made smoother if you put some of your new lifestyle plan into practice before you retire.
So are you ready to retire?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you determine whether it’s time or not.
- Have you planned sufficiently to sustain adequate financial security in your retirement years?
- Have you considered how to disengage from your old self-concept to a new one that will allow you to embrace this new stage of life?
- Have you considered how to replace work functions such as your sense of fulfillment, structure, social contact, time management, sense of fulfillment etc?
- Are you satisfied with your current stage of life?
- Do you have leisure activities that motivate, inspire, relax, and entertain you?
- Do you have a positive attitude about retirement?
- Have you considered putting some of your new lifestyle plan into practice before leaving the workplace?
While thoughts of freedom, travel, and renewal can make it tempting to leap into retirement at the first sign of financial security, it is equally important to ensure that you are prepared from a lifestyle perspective. A clearly defined lifestyle plan will serve you every bit as well as financial security in your quest for a fulfilling and meaningful retirement.