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Money & Career

6 Schedule-planning Tips for Retirement, from a Retirement Coach

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Remember the good old days of the big retirement party and the gold watch?

It’s safe to say times have changed, as men and women move away from traditional sit-on-the-beach retirement and instead pursue encore careers, return to school or simply keep working, either for financial or personal reasons.

“Retirement used to be a destination,” says Dorian Mintzer, Ph.D. “It's no longer really just a destination. It's a journey. It's a transition.” Mintzer is a psychologist and retirement transition coach who co-authored the book, The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle. In her work, she regularly counsels individuals to think about what they want their retirement to look like. “Retirement coaches really help people assess and figure out, ‘Who am I? Who do I want to be? What are my skills? What's most important to me? What are my values and how do I want to live my life?’” she says.

The key to a healthy, happy retirement, says Mintzer, is viewing this period of your life as retiring to something rather than from something. She shared this advice.

Develop hobbies before you retire. If your work identity feels like your main identity, Mintzer suggests trying out some new activities before you retire. “That way, it's not quite such an abrupt ending if you're not working and then you're suddenly faced with, ‘I don't know who I am.’” Consider embarking on a new athletic endeavor, participating in yoga classes, enrolling in musical instrument lessons or some other hobby you’ve always wanted to try.

Find ways to stay connected. Whether you’ve been working a 40-hour week or actively parenting in recent years, you’re likely coming into contact with a number of different people and having meaningful interactions throughout the day. That, says Mintzer, is a road you may need to pave for yourself in retirement as you search for connection, engagement, purpose and meaning. She says it can help to ask yourself what gets you out of bed in the morning? What allows for a sense of community and camaraderie? Maybe it’ll be volunteering, taking a class at the local community college or meeting up with a regular lunch group. Those connections can help build structure in your new phase of life.  

Visualize where you want to be and with whom. If you think five, 10 or even 20 years down the line, what does the perfect day look like? Who are you spending that day with? Where are you living? What are you doing? “Think about what's important to you and then work backwards and say, well, if those are things that are important to me in two years, five years, or however many years, what do I need to do now?” says Mintzer. Let your mind wander, see where it ends up and starting planning out the logistical steps to reach that vision.

Allow yourself time and space to figure it out — but not too much time and space. Some people thrive on establishing a routine immediately, while others are content to turn off the alarm, sleep in for the first few weeks and play it by ear. Both approaches are great, says Mintzer. The important thing is to have a general vision of how you’d like to spend your time. “Retiring from work does not mean retiring from life,” she says. Keep checking in with yourself and evaluate how you’re feeling. If you’re starting to feel isolated and disconnected, or you’re not getting pleasure from things that used to give you purpose, that’s a red flag. “Too much isolation can spin out of control and may lead to depression,” says Mintzer. If you start to feel unmotivated or sad or lost, ask your doctor for help.  

If you’re in a relationship, discuss your retirement expectations with your partner. Some couples retire at the same time, while others stagger it. Whichever way you go, be sure and talk it out. Is one of you better about filling your time than the other? Are you concerned that you’ll become overly dependent on your partner, socially? How will you plan time together and time apart? “People can have very good marriages, but not necessarily want to spend or be used to spending 24/7 with their partner,” says Mintzer. “It’s a common issue that comes up.”

Remember there are no set rules. Don’t want to stop working? Don’t stop working! Prefer to cut your hours down to one or two days a week? Talk to your boss about it. Want to seek out an encore career or a fun part-time job? The time is now. Got the urge to volunteer or learn a new language? The world is your oyster. Again, think about what you wish to retire to and make it happen.

“There’s no right way,” says Mintzer.

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