Retirement Planning Strategies - October 2019

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A Life of End less Saturdays WHAT WILL GET YOU UP IN RETIREMENT?

When I sit down with someone to plan their retirement, the first topic we broach 99% of the time is money. That’s only natural because ensuring you have enough saved up is the foundation of a fruitful retirement. Knowing your nest egg is large enough gives you peace of mind and allows your retirement to be free of financial stress and anxiety. However, financial stability is not enough on its own to create a fulfilling retirement. To achieve that goal, you have to figure out what the heck is going to fill your days. All too often, we define retirement as an absence of work. While that’s technically true, it doesn’t get at what makes retirement unique and exciting. Maybe we rely on this definition because everyone has a different answer to what retirement is for them. One person may think learning ceramics will be a yearslong passion after work, while another may consider it the dumbest idea in the world. Everyone’s interests and hobbies are different, but I truly believe we all have them. Finding a way to pursue those interests is one of the surest ways to define your retirement in an active, positive sense.

Taking the time to sketch out your days after work, however vaguely, should be a part of your retirement planning. The image of retirement we get on TV, where a couple sits on a beach with drinks in their hands, is not going to sustain you. A life of pure leisure may work for a week, or even a month, but it gets stale quicker than you think. Spending time with family, having new adventures, traveling, learning a new skill, or rekindling a forgotten one — these are all more rewarding than kicking your feet up and resting on your laurels forevermore. In nearly 20 years of helping federal employees plan for retirement, I’ve found that they often struggle with this portion of planning. I teach all sorts of classes related to retirement, but one that always gets a huge response is called, “What Will You Do When Every Day Is Saturday?” People come up to me after these talks and tell me they never even considered retirement in those terms. I suspect some of it has to do with the nature of public service. Most people I talk to absolutely love their job. They find it deeply meaningful and important.

Of course, that’s a great way to feel about your job, but it can leave quite a void when you retire. Often, federal workers prioritize their jobs above all else. When that goes away, creating a new system of meaning can be difficult. Once people find it, though, their retirement really begins to take flight. This discovery doesn’t always happen right away. You have to transition to life after work, get your feet wet, and begin a new path forward. In general, I find six months to be a great marker for this period. If you’ve been retired for over half a year and still feel rudderless, you may need to begin working harder at it. You should approach your retirement with verve and excitement. Once the momentum gets going, it will carry you to places you never expected. But it’s up to you to get the ball rolling.

So, let me ask you: What will you do when every day is Saturday?

–Ann Vanderslice | 1

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