Reimagine your life as you prepare for retirement

A big part of preparing for retirement is the focusing on a personalized vision of retirement. It is important to take the time to get a sense of how life is going to change and how you want it to be. Designing different lifestyles can take some time and effort.  The sooner this process gets underway, the easier the transition will be.  Think about and imagine how your life will change.  Discuss it with your family and friends, get some feedback and compare notes.

As part of your visioning of retirement, here are some themes, phases or stages in retirement you might face.  Recognizing these stages may help you with your lifestyle retirement plan.

Unwinding stage

The first experiences of retirement are called the honeymoon stage.  The bag of rocks is off your back, you have time to exhale, celebrate your new stage of life, and enjoy newfound relief in a to-hell-with-the-alarm sense of freedom.

This stage can be the busiest and most expensive time as projects pop up, opportunities to travel are taken advantage of, and the Honey-Do list gets whittled down.  It can also be a time of reflection, reevaluation and assessment, rest, relaxation, and introspection.  It is a period of shedding stressors and tension, and rigid routines.  It can be a period of new starts as well.  You are now your own boss.

Beware of time poachers who volunteer you because they assume you have nothing to do.  Be assertive and guard your decompression time by learning to say no.  Allow some drift time, mind clearing, extra sleep or rest time by keeping things simple while you shift gears.

Accomplish stage

After enough unwinding, figure out what your goals or missions are in retirement.  Some folks renovate, others move to a new community, start a new job or business, start a volunteer position or get involved with their community in some capacity.  Those goals may include a legacy plan or a philanthropic project.  You have energy, skills, know-how, and enthusiasm that are valuable, and so figure out how you want to apply your gifts to your goals. Figure out what do you want to do with the time and energy you have available.

Experience stage

Now that you have more time, you can choose your own adventures and experiences.  The Bucket List may come in handy here.  You may want to experiment with different options.  The most popular experience early retirees choose is travel. Find your travel style and budget and explore the world as you see fit.

I spoke to one woman who had always wanted to run a bed and breakfast or a catering business.  She tried both and decided against both and now runs someone else’s little hotel in a warmer country for six months of the year.  Another said he got bored one winter, put a heat source in his garage and started making cottage furniture that he sells at a Cottage Life show each spring.  Try out your ideas and adjust as needed. My view now is, “If it is not fun, I am not interested unless it is really important!”

Learn stage

I have met the most dynamic retirees who are constantly challenging themselves, learning, taking risks, trying new experiences, meeting new people, and reinventing themselves constantly.  Some are singing, dancing, painting, acting, creative writing, teaching, or tackling photography.  Others are Nordic walking, swimming, fishing, hiking, weight training, doing yoga and pilates, zumba, geocaching, running, biking, and snowboarding.  Some are taking courses in organic gardening, quilting,  a new language, art history, economics, and social justice.  The opportunities to learn are everywhere in a formal or informal manner.  We are only restricted by our own imaginations.  Options for further learning include  continuing education, the internet, community centers, libraries, clubs, local colleges or universities, and fitness facilities.

Reimagine life in retirement and see what kind of picture comes into focus. As you prepare for retirement, what are you looking forward to the most?

Written by Donna McCaw

Donna McCaw is the author of It’s Your Time about the choices and decisions in preparing for retirement, a storyteller and speaker who helps people make informed and positive transitions to retirement. She does courses and presentations on Retirement Readiness and Women and Retirement.

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