Why retire? This seems to be a question frequently asked by Boomers approaching traditional retirement age. “I like my work, I’d miss it,” many women have said. Others voice their concerns about finances, or worry that they won’t know what to do, or that they will become obsolete, or lose control of their lives.
At first blush, those concerns appear legitimate; but today, retirement offers so many options that none of those worries need concern you. In fact, retirement can offer you more control over your life than you have ever had—if you choose to make that happen.
The secret is planning.
For most people, retirement planning is considered to be a successful financial plan that will provide financial support through your life span—of which we have no idea. Will we live to be 70, 80, 90, 100? Those of us in reasonably good health have the potential of living to an older age than our parents did, but we know that doesn’t guarantee anything.
What most of us know is that, whatever our life span, we would like those years to be happy and productive as well as healthy. This is where taking control of our lives by creating plans on how we want to spend our days can dramatically affect our health and happiness.
Determine which activities will give you fulfillment in retirement.
Statistics show that happy people are healthier because negative emotions strain the body1. Each person’s source of happiness varies, but it is generally understood that happy people fill their days with activities that are meaningful to them and contribute to their contentment with their lives. While participating in our chosen activities, our minds and bodies are likely to be fully engaged, thereby contributing to greater mental and physical health.
Retirees who have taken measures to plan for activities or situations that they would like to have in retirement have the greatest assurance that they will not become obsolete, and that they will enjoy each day with pursuits that interest them. Whether you take a hobby to new heights, a new—but part time—business or job or learn something completely different from your field of work, you’re likely to experience such fulfillment that you will wonder why you ever worried about obsolesce or boredom.
Anticipate the lower stress you’ll feel.
Another contributor to our health and mental relaxation is the absence of work related stress. Retirement can free us from the demands of a time clock (or a boss texting at 4 AM) and it frees us from the necessity of working with a particularly irritating co-worker. Even if you choose to work or volunteer part time in retirement, we generally have more options for when we will work or with whom.
And if those choices are not an option in a particular environment, it’s often easier to move on to something else as a retiree.
Start thinking about retirement ahead of time.
So go ahead. Start dreaming about what you would like to do in retirement—yes, even if you have just turned 50 or 55. Dreams become plans, then actions that start you on the way to great retirement years. Having done that, you won’t miss a beat of happiness as you transition from your work years to your golden years.
PS: If you have a male life-partner, encourage him to start his plan as well. Men typically worry more that women do about retirement, and you’ll be doing him and yourself a great favor!
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1 Chan, T.H. Happiness and Health. Harvard Medical School, Winter, 2011