How to Properly Prepare for Retirement

a retired couple gaze out on a hiking trail
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Many people eagerly anticipate their retirement — counting the minutes, hours and days — while others are skeptical of this period in their life that brings many changes.

Any change in life is accompanied with uncertainty, and retirement is a time that requires a great deal of planning for most people.

Why is planning important? It’s because we are programmed from the beginning of our life to have assigned roles and purposes, and retirement is a time period that doesn’t come with a manual or assigned roles.

Some researchers have prescribed phases for retirement, and the most important phase to invest time and planning into is known as preretirement.

This stage of retirement may be one of the most important periods since financial and emotional planning should occur.

Certain questions to ask are: What changes will you need to make in your life, if any, during your upcoming retirement? Do I need to meet with my advisers, including my lawyer and financial planner? Will my life change when I retire?

Individuals should review their saving and retirement plans, prepare a retirement budget and think about the roles they will assume during retirement. If an individual wants to maintain the same lifestyle, financial planning is crucial.

Planning what you will do with your time is important, too. Since retirement doesn’t have an assigned purpose, it is necessary to think about exploring hobbies, volunteer work, part-time work and traveling — or you may simply choose to take it easy.

During preretirement, you will need to think about where you will live. Will you remain in your home, downsize or change geographically? These are not questions to explore lightly.

Preretirement is also a time to stay social. Individuals who no longer associate with work acquaintances need to make new friends. Loneliness is a contributing factor to depression.

Volunteering is a way to have purpose in your life and socialize. According to the Corporation of National Community and Service, the most common forms of volunteering include:

  • Collecting, servicing, preparing and distributing food
  • Fundraising
  • Engaging in labor, such as helping to build homes or clean parks
  • Tutoring or teaching
  • Mentoring youth and/or individuals starting businesses

Volunteering seems to have health benefits as well, as research points to volunteers living longer. Some individuals like to volunteer their time to helping startup or existing businesses. Retirees have excellent skills that can benefit many in the business world.

Before retiring, update your resume so that you can share it with businesses that you may be helping or if you choose to rejoin the working world. You may desire to work part time or in a different capacity.

Think about learning for the sake of enjoyment or getting a degree. There are many opportunities for adult learners in education. At the same time, you may choose to teach at an adult program.

It is also important to expand your knowledge of technology. Take a course in technology so that you can reach out to old friends, stay in touch with new ones and communicate with friends and family.

Preretirement is one of the most important stages of retirement. Individuals who plan their retirement both financially and emotionally are better prepared for their retirement life when it begins.

Marcy Shoemaker, Psy.D., is a staff psychologist at Abramson Center.


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