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Most of us work from 40 to 50 hours a week. Say you have a half-hour commute each way (although in Atlanta, you’re more likely looking at two hours round trip. Thank goodness for the WSB Traffic Team!). Now we’re talking from 45 to 55 hours per week or 180 to 220 hours a month. That’s 2,500 hours or so per year that are booked up and out of your control.
See what I mean? There are a lot of hours to fill once you control your own schedule. And while it’s easy to imagine unlimited freedom, happiness and purpose, the reality is that many people have a hard time transitioning from a structured lifestyle to one of complete freedom.
Here are the top five issues that newly minted retirees face.
1. Change is difficult.
Humans are creatures of habit, and retirement upends our everyday routines: We don’t have to wake up early for work anymore, and we don’t have daily obligations. Talk about a lifestyle change! This new freedom will inevitably come with ups and downs as you reschedule your days and weeks.
If you think you’re going to hop, skip and jump your way through this phase of life, you may experience a bit of disappointment. If you loved your job and your co-workers were like a second family, then saying goodbye will be hard. Downsizing out of the home where you raised a family can also be difficult, even if you’re moving into the house of your dreams.
Be sure to give yourself the space to understand that you are going through a transition and some days will be easier than others. Remember that retirement, like anything else in life, is a process. Eventually, though, you’ll settle into your happy place.
2. Structure feels good.
For many of us, a jampacked calendar is preferable to no calendar. But when you retire, you make your own schedule. You don’t have a boss to check in with (except your spouse, maybe). Deadlines become a thing of the past. In nearly every regard, your time is your own, and it’s up to you to create a structure that works for you.
In researching my book, "You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think," I found that the happiest retirees regularly engage in the hobbies and activities they love. I call these endeavors "core pursuits," and the retirees I surveyed who topped the happiness charts have an average of 3.6 core pursuits, while the self-reported unhappy lot has only 1.9.
It doesn’t matter what you do — volunteering, singing in the choir, painting, taking college courses, or playing tennis. What does matter is that you have core pursuits and that you set aside time to do them. Fill your hours with activities you love, and you are more likely to look forward to every new day.
3. Too much structure feels not-so-good.
As you begin to structure your days, remember that there is never enough time to “do it all,” even in retirement. If you find yourself overscheduled, give yourself permission to trim your to-do list.
4. Our priorities tend to remain in place.
This is a tricky one for the Type A personalities among us. It's crucial that you understand that Retired You is still You. You'll likely continue doing the things that have always brought you joy, like spending time with the grandkids and playing golf. And that's 100 percent OK. So, don't let your dreams and aspirations for retirement become guilt-inducing burdens.
Just because you always thought you would volunteer more in retirement or travel to the Himalayas in Tibet doesn’t mean you have to do those things. If you do, great. And if you don’t get around to them? Still great. Try to view this time as one where the world is yours, and you can explore and interact in it however you choose. Take it one step at a time, and you will be well on the path to a happy retirement.
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5. The financial piece.
I’ve purposefully included money at the end of our list because this is the piece of retirement that gets the most attention. Still, it’s worthy to talk about having your financial ducks in a row.
That’s because one stressor that could materialize in early retirement (no matter your financial health) is that your employment income stops. Of course, you’ll likely have income from investments, Social Security benefits, a pension, etc., but many people find themselves worried when their steady work checks go away. And you and your spouse, while partners in retirement planning, may not be on the same page about your post-career budget.
There are many solutions to this potential problem. If you and your partner aren't seeing eye to eye on retirement spending, take the time to talk it through until you reach common ground. If you're both stressed about the lack of work income, you could consider taking part-time jobs. And instead of jumping feet first into full retirement, you could enter the Gray Zone instead — a time when you're just partially retired. With all of the expertise you've amassed during your career, you should have no trouble finding some consulting work or the like to bring in some extra cash.
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So, there you have it. With those extra 2,500 hours or so each year that are now yours for the spending, you know how to make the most of them. The key is to embrace change, create a workable structure for time, keep your expectations in line with who you know yourself to be, and continue to be prudent financially. Do these things, and you’ll find yourself breezing through your first year in retirement with flying colors.
Wes Moss has been the host of “Money Matters” on News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB in Atlanta for more than seven years now, and he does a live show from 9-11 a.m. Sundays. He is the chief investment strategist for Atlanta-based Capital Investment Advisors. For more information, go to wesmoss.com.
This information is provided to you as a resource for informational purposes only and should not be viewed as investment advice or recommendations. This information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance, or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. This information is not intended to, and should not, form a primary basis for any investment decision that you may make. Always consult your own legal, tax, or investment adviser before making any investment/tax/estate/financial planning considerations or decisions.
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