"Ready to Retire?"
If you are like most people, when you hear the word retirement you may immediately conjure up thoughts of never-ending vacations, warm weather, complete freedom and flexibility, and delicious food (maybe the last one is just me). The reality is that retirement is not a vacation – it is your next chapter, which could span 3 + decades.
The AgeLab at MIT is a really amazing organization that is dedicated to studying all aspects of ageing. They have done research on what they call the "8,000 Days" of retirement. Certainly, life will look differently over those 8,000 days, and the AgeLab describes 4 distinct phases of retirement:
- Honeymoon Phase: This is a transition period, and bit of a gray area. You might jump right into retirement or reduce your hours and work part-time. This is where you'll also probably front-load your bucket list and learn what works for you and what doesn't in retirement.
- Big Decision Phase: This is when you’ve really adjusted to being fully retired and when you’ll begin to face some big decisions. These include choosing where you will live, how you will get around, and who you will spend your time with.
- Longevity Phase: You’ll begin to experience greater longevity risks—meaning that your health, mobility, and cognitive abilities will not be what they once were. Simply put, your needs will be greater, but your resources may be smaller.
- Solo Journey Phase: Health or physical issues can abruptly come to the forefront. But the loss of a spouse may be an even greater life event—one that may ultimately open doors to new life experiences.
"Retired: (adjective) young at heart, slightly older in other places." - anonymous
Phase 1, the Honeymoon Phase, is the phase that we all picture. But as you just read there are other phases that may be tougher to imagine. It pays dividends to brainstorm, have honest conversations, and plan for these phases.
To give you a head start on the first and second phases, it might be useful to spend time exploring what your values are in life. What are the aspects of your life that bring you meaning? For some, this may be social connectedness, for others constant learning and intellectual growth. These values are unlikely to change as you move into retirement. Planning ahead for how to incorporate these values into the different stages of retirement will be essential. If you would like help, we are happy to chat.
OUR TAKE: Find a Retirement Mentor. This can be a friend or family member who is thriving in retirement. Chances are that it took them some time to make retirement successful. Have them share their story on what worked and what didn't.
Most successful retirements have a few core features in common:
- Identified goals
- The ability to measure success
- Social relationships
Now that you are armed with more knowledge on phases 1 and 2 of retirement, I wanted to shift gears and touch on the last two phases (Phase 3: Navigating Longevity and Phase 4: Solo Journey).
Going back to the AgeLab at MIT…They have identified three questions that can predict future quality of life in these late stages. They include:
- Who will change my light bulb?
- How will I get an ice cream cone?
- Who will I have lunch with?
These seeming light questions ask you to consider how you will continue living as you get older. Here are these questions again, showing what they are really asking:
- How will you maintain your home as physical tasks become more challenging?
- What will be your access to transportation so you can continue enjoying the things in life that bring you pleasure?
- Who will be your primary social support as you age?
These questions serve as important conversation starters as you age. I encourage you to reflect on your answers and start a dialogue with the important people in your lives (perhaps over your favorite flavor of ice cream). Facilitating this conversation is essential so that you can be prepared for later.