January 29, 2021
How to Tackle the First Full Year: Transitioning to Retirement
Welcome to our series on life’s big transitions. First up: finding the tools you need to move forward and adjust to a new way of life after transitioning to retirement.
Many or all of these products are from our partners who compensate us. This does not influence our evaluations or our opinions but may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. Learn More.
Retirement is a shock to the system. Even if you’ve been anxiously awaiting it for years, the transition can still come with both ups and downs. As many as two thirds of Americans struggle with different aspects of the transition.
But the better you understand the potential for those ups and downs, the better equipped you’ll be to ease into an exciting and fulfilling retirement. That’s why we’ve compiled a guide to your first year post-work, complete with tips on managing the psychological toll of retirement and some calendar guidelines for incorporating those tips into your new life.
Why is retirement so hard?
A lot of people don’t talk about the massive 180 your brain has to do when you retire. Throughout your life (especially in the US), you have likely been told or internalized messaging that work, productivity, and earning wages gives you purpose, and that you’re defined by the career you’ve carved out for yourself.
Now, all of a sudden, you’re just supposed to be able to erase those thoughts and enjoy staring down a future with no schedule, no professional responsibilities or milestones, and no satisfaction of completing a job well done?
If you’ve been miserable in your job for years or need to give your body a rest, it’s possible you’re able to adjust to this mindset quite quickly. But it’s no wonder that others equate the loss of their job with a loss of their personal value.
Of course, every person is worth more than their work. Here are some actionable steps you can take in the first year of your retirement to help remind yourself of that, and to make the most out of your retirement years:
- Enjoy it! Take time to revel in pleasures you didn’t have time for before, even if it’s something as simple as enjoying a slow morning cup of coffee on your porch or evening strolls with the dog. Taking a moment each week to jot down some of the new things you’re most grateful for can be a great way to remind yourself how lucky you are to have earned this retirement, as well as a good way to discover the things that give you the greatest sense of purpose and joy outside of work.
- Find a schedule that works for you. One of the most important things you can do during retirement is at least roughly stick to some sort of schedule. Take these early months to figure out one that works for you. It doesn’t have to be rigid or complicated—maybe your only agenda item is a morning Pilates class, volunteering every Wednesday, or twice-weekly lunch dates with friends. Keep it flexible enough so you can easily adjust when something’s not working, but commit to it enough that you don’t feel overcome by feelings of uselessness or boredom.
- Make sure your health insurance is settled. Don’t head into retirement without solid medical coverage. Whether you’re relying on COBRA, Medicare, a spouse’s coverage, or another route, take time to review the plan, make sure it’s your best option, and make a calendar alert to reevaluate a month before the coverage is set to expire or be renewed. If you don’t yet qualify for Medicare and are overwhelmed by the prospect of finding coverage, eHealth is a great tool for sorting through more than 10,000 plans and giving you options for the best pick for you. You can also use this time to look into additional medical savings offers, like prescription drug savings cards such as Hippo or, if you haven’t hit 65 yet, making sure you’re maxing out an HSA.
- Get into new hobbies and interests. Without work to occupy your time and energy, it’s time to discover some new ways to use your body and brain. This could mean getting more involved with things you’ve always loved in the past but didn’t have much time for, like volunteering with a local organization, tinkering with the beater in your garage, or dipping your toe in the dating pool with services like SilverSingles. Or, you could start from scratch with a brand new hobby. If you’re not sure where to begin, think about activities that can help you meet other goals in your retirement life. Maybe you’re trying to spend less these days—cooking three new recipes a week with your KitchenAid appliances could be a fun way to pick up a skill and trim your budget. Or perhaps you’ve been planning a retirement trip to Italy? Taking an Italian language class with Babbel or a Skillshare class on photography could make your getaway even more enjoyable.
- Rethink your budget. Now that you’ve had some time to see what your retired life really looks like, take another look at your budget. You probably had some spending and saving guidelines in mind before you retired, but now’s a great time to look at those again and see if they need adjusting. You can also reevaluate your retirement investments, making sure you’re on top of when you’ll have to start taking a required minimum distribution or when you want to take 401(k) distributions. Maybe you realize that you can delay Social Security a little longer to get a bigger payout down the line, or that you want to convert some of your savings to less risky accounts. With a new and more accurate budget, you can use Silvur to calculate your Retirement Score and help you take a harder look at your spending, allowing you to get a clear picture of just how long your savings will carry you through your golden years. You can also check out the deals available to you through Silvur’s Retirement Store, helping you save on everything from grocery delivery to tax software.
- Focus on your health. With work out of the way, you’ll have more time to adopt some of the healthy lifestyle choices you may have been promising yourself you’ll take for years. Even seemingly small, actionable steps like committing to a few healthier meals each week, tracking and better managing your sleep, and getting your blood flowing with exercise can help to prevent and manage 80% of chronic disease later on in your life. Retirement is a great time to spend more time with friends and get some exercise by heading to the park with a buddy for a walker taking a yoga class together from the experts at Yoga International.
- Plan something to look forward to. This period of time can be the start of a downward swing. Even if you were giddy at the start of retirement, the novelty may have worn off, and you could find yourself peering into a uncertain future. Now is the perfect time to plan something to look forward to. This could be something personal, like a big family reunion or a Mediterranean cruise (when those options are safe). It could also be an event for your neighborhood, like a charity walk for a cause close to your heart, or a poker tournament at your local community center. Involving yourself in the planning process of an event is a great way to exercise some new brain muscles and give yourself the benefits of positive anticipation.
- Re-invest in all your personal relationships. Now is a great time to think about the most important personal relationships in your life and figure out how to put even more time and energy into them. You likely have more time now to have a weekly lunch date or game of cards with old friends, read a daily book to your grandkids via FaceTime, or make longer visits to a friend or family member in an assisted living facility. Along with spreading joy to your loved ones, this benefits you, since there’s a powerful correlation between warm personal relationships and health and happiness as you age.
- Think ahead to the future. This is the time when you can start to really evaluate what works for you in retirement and what doesn’t. It’s okay to admit if it’s not all roses—maybe you realize your budget was unrealistic, you really want to move to a more retirement-friendly area, or that despite a fun new hobby you’re itching to do a little work. If that’s the case, consider scenarios where you can maintain a work-life balance. Maybe you can pick up a part-time gig with a non-profit you’re passionate about, or dedicate two full days a week to adventures with the grandkids. If you miss the hum of your old job but don’t want to go all the way back to work, you could start mentoring some young professionals in your previous industry or organizing networking events. Remember that your retirement doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s—just be honest with yourself about what motivates you to get out of bed each morning and be grateful for a fulfilling day ahead.
Interested in more tips on planning, saving, and preparing for retirement life? Check out our blog here!