Reaching retirement is a milestone in life, but often it’s something many of us are unprepared for. Decades of projects, deadlines, and meetings get swiftly replaced with fetching grandkids from school, spending more time with friends and family and regular afternoon naps. While this sounds blissful after a long-standing career, many retirees find they are prepared for the financial aspect of retired life, but aren’t prepared for the physical and mental changes that happen as a result. While a break from the working life is well deserved, a bit of retirement planning for one’s wellbeing is worthwhile.
There is no definitive how-to guide for planning for retirement, no ‘one size fits all’ solution and certainly no musts or must-nots. There are however ideas and suggestions for how to make the most of this stage in your life. The trick is to take these ideas, and create a plan based on your wants and needs. These vary from living situation, to daily routine, and weekly activities that support both your mental and physical wellbeing.
One of the first things to consider is the idea of downsizing. This is entirely dependent on your finances, and family needs. If you’re still living in your large family home that was once filled with two or three busy children and their friends, as well as regular feasts for friends and family, it might be worth downsizing to a one or two bedroomed home. However, if you still enjoy entertaining, or having the space to host family and friends when they’re in town, downsizing might be a decision reserved for a few years down the line.
For those who don’t have partners or a large family, and who aren’t interested in entertaining in retirement, downsizing can be the perfect move. According to Ed Merck writing for Forbes, downsizing was a liberating change that was welcomed in this new phase of life. It helped let go of excess possessions, unnecessary space and freed up some of his finances that were spent on maintaining a larger property. The move into a smaller home might just be a way to start the new retirement phase afresh with less clutter and more room for you to do the things you really enjoy.
Once you’ve considered where you’d like to spend your retirement years, it’s essential to consider your everyday schedule. While the lack of a schedule can sound very appealing, it’s vital to have some structure in place to ensure you don’t lose your sense of purpose and fulfillment. Establish a way forward for both your mental and physical wellbeing. These two aspects are vital for the smooth transition into retirement as well your happiness long after the transition takes place. Australian psychiatrist Dr Terry Chong, advises that there are three main elements to being happy, “physical, mental and cognitive health”. Planning activities around these three main elements will set you up for a happy and healthy retirement.
Planning your physical activity is entirely dependent on what exercise you enjoy doing as well your budget. While 30 minutes of everyday activity is advised, you can build this routine however you wish. Take a short daily walk around the neighbourhood, sign up for a pilates class at your local studio, or if you have the money, a gym contract where you have access to a number of different classes and equipment to choose from. While staying active is first and foremost investing in your physical health, you’re also taking part in a hobby exclusively aimed at bringing you joy and happiness.
The next step is to consider your mental health. Despite the much needed break from your busy schedule, not having enough to do during the day can wreak havoc on your mental state. This is a very personal journey and may require some work to figure out what does and doesn’t work for you. Or you may even have a routine in place already, that will just need a tweak to fit into your new routine. Get into early morning meditation, join a weekly yoga class, volunteer for a cause close to your heart or join a support group. The Australian Retired Persons Association (ARPA) for example, is a countrywide organisation that supports the wellbeing of retirees with various groups and activities on offer. There are a number of ways to focus your mind, destress and let go, so think about what would suit your wants and needs and try out a few options.
Embrace this new chapter, fill it with all the things you’ve wanted to do and haven’t had the time for. This is a time to make your own, and with a little preparation you can have the retirement years you’d always hoped for.