As retirement comes into view, it’s time to imagine a new you for the post-work age.
You remember your first day at school, your first job, your first home. And now your final pay check is in sight. You’re nearly there. That’s quite an achievement.
How to be trigger happy
As with other big life events, retirement triggers choices that shape your future. Whether it’s moving to that dream cottage at the end of the peninsula or flexing that senior’s card for cheaper travel, it’s time to take stock and reboot your life.
You didn’t rock up at your first day of work without investing in appropriate clothes or checking out what kind of transport would get you there.
As you did when you started to invest, it makes sense to make sure you’re ready when the time comes so you can minimise surprises and maximise your new free time.
Dollars and sense
For instance, if you’re downsizing your house or vehicle, you might consider how shedding assets and acquiring new ones affect your tax position before you retire.
If you haven’t already, now’s the time to understand how your future will be financed. With the help of Adam Spencer, AMP explains how you can access your super via different types of pensions, and how these compare with the government's age pension.
Whether you’re unsure about super, tax or dealing with Centrelink, a financial adviser might be able to help.
Having your finances in order is important, but there’s more than money to enjoying the fruits of your new phase of life. Here are five ways you can make sure retirement’s a milestone not a millstone.
Think mind and body
Without a clear idea of how you’ll spend your time, the initial euphoria of the untouched morning alarm can give way to anything from boredom to panic. Most of your 24 hours may be unstructured, so figure out how you’ll spend it wisely.
You might try something new. Perhaps now is the time to keep bees, join a choir or learn archery. If you have a partner, remember to involve them in the planning. Even if they don’t fancy joining you on a skydive, they may see a chance to learn how to take better action pictures.
Travel is near the top of many wish lists in retirement. If you don’t have the funds for a Caribbean cruise, there are a host of cheaper options around Australia and even beyond. And now you’ll have more time to spend, without worrying about annual leave quotas, or who’ll look after your business while you’re away.
Have a purpose
A rest is as good as a change. Recharging your batteries means getting them ready for your next challenge, rather than letting them go flat. Although it’s great to have unstructured time to think and dream, boredom can be a damaging state of mind, particularly if it’s prolonged. People who are no longer working can lose a sense of purpose, so make sure you have an idea of how you’ll use your extra hours to do something you love.
It’s OK to catch up on a few boxsets you missed out on along the way, but even Seinfeld only ran to 180 episodes, and most of them are only half an hour. If cocktail hour edges back before 5pm, that might be a sign you should join that book club or volunteer to widen your social circle.
It might mean doing more of what you love already, just more of it. Switching from sketching to watercolours. Thirty-six holes rather than eighteen.
If you’re already physically active, this can be a great time to extend yourself, embrace something new like yoga, or aqua aerobics. If you’re healthy but know you could improve, you might sign up for a sponsored cycle ride or walk to help a cause you care about.
Catch up on what you’ve missed
Many of us put off expanding our passions while we’re working because we don’t have time.
If you’ve always wanted to read the classics, now might be your chance to explore the jewels of world literature. Reading is brain expanding and inexpensive. Books older than 70 years from the death of the author are out of copyright and therefore cheap in print or even free on your Kindle. Plato and Charlotte Bronte take you to new lands without leaving your chair.
Follow your heart, not the herd
Just because the neighbours move to the beach house doesn’t mean you have to. You might prefer to be closer to the action of the city or just your favourite coffee shop.
Many people downsize coming up to retirement. A smaller property usually means lower utility bills and maintenance. Perhaps there’s an affordable unit close to your daughter’s place, or the first tee. If you’ve still got your long-gone kids’ stuff lying around the place, you could start the groundwork straight away, preparing your house for your new chapter.
But it’s not for everyone. If your spare bedroom has the right natural light for your artist’s studio or you just love your lemon trees, you might be better off staying where you are and saving yourself the real estate fees and hassles.
You’re facing a change in life, but you don’t have to change for change’s sake. Put yourself and your loved ones first.
Listen to the voice of experience
As with so many things in life, you can learn from experts. Talk to people you know who have already retired, and see what worked for them, and what they wish they’d put in place before they took the plunge.
Consider what will make you happy in the years beyond work, so you can live the life you want.
Finally, if you haven’t yet given these things serious thought yet, don’t panic. You’ve dealt with other changes in your life, this is just another one.
Think of it as a new adventure. Let’s face it, you’ve earned it.
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