Retirement planning doesn’t have to be a chore. Use your imagination and have some fun!
By Marcia Mantell
If you’re like most people, your retirement accounts lost significant value in 2022 – likely around 20%. There is still daily speculation about the impending doom of a recession. Inflation is still running high. And to top off this depressing news, some members of Congress are throwing a flaming arrow into the heart of our social safety nets, threatening to radically change Social Security and Medicare.
Taken altogether, no one would blame you for thinking your retirement outlook is pretty murky right now. But that is no way to think about retirement!
Let’s have some fun!
Instead, change things up. Turn around in your chair and look to a better future. Don’t dwell on the uncertainty and endless chatter about pending doom and gloom. Frankly, we’re just in another economic cycle and this too shall pass. Then we’ll have another cycle, and another, forever.
So, it’s time to get back to having some fun with your retirement planning! Use this time of year to not only get your statements ready for the tax-filing deadline (which is April 18th this year for Federal returns and most state returns.) Use it as well to put some fresh and sassy perspective into your retirement plans. After all, the vast majority of us will have at least 30 years of living to do in retirement.
Here are three key ingredients to putting some fun into your future.
1. Grab a box of chocolates before talking about becoming a “retiree.”
Chocolate makes everything better, so start with a nice assortment as you begin to tackle the idea of being a retiree. Have you given any thought what it will be like to introduce yourself as a retiree at some point in the future?
Retirement comes as a shock to many people. “How did this happen so fast?” they wonder. They struggle to introduce themselves as a retired person. And it can take a few years before they acknowledge out loud they are retired.
To avoid that awkward situation, talk with a spouse or friend about your views and opinions of retirement. Where does your perspective come from? Has your idea about retirement changed over time? Or was the offer to take an early retirement package tempting when it came around but now you’re in limbo?
There’s no right or wrong to your own perspective about being a retiree. It’s just more fun if you can embrace the idea of being a retiree well before it happens.
2. Build your new castle.
How long have you lived in your current home? How attached are you to this particular piece of property? Are you willing to explore moving somewhere else?
Use where you live today as your starting point. Then think about where you might live throughout retirement. Is there a real possibility you might need to build a new castle as you age? Ask yourself, once I’m retired, do I still want to live here, or is it time to downsize or explore a new area to live? Here are a few questions to consider:
- When I reach age 75, where do I want to be? In the same house, or somewhere where I don’t have to mow the lawn and take out the trash?
- Wouldn’t it be fun to be a snowbird? But am I realistically and physically going to move back and forth every five or six months in my 80s?
- When I’m 92, where is living going to be easier? A place with fewer stairs? Near my children? Where it’s warm? What will my choices be?
Think about why you might stay put versus moving somewhere more manageable or more fun. This can be a difficult decision since there is so much attachment to a home. But when the job doesn’t hold you to a location and your options are wide open, might it be fun to explore buying or even building a new castle?
3. Dream up your ideal retirement “menu.”
Perhaps the best part about retirement planning is you get to reset and restart your life. There are no work obligations anymore, so your time is all yours. Well, just what will you do with all that time? What options will be on your table? Can you finally move your backburner items to the front burner and crank up the heat?
It’s fun to dream about all the possibilities! The brainstorming process is often far-fetched and silly. But eventually, new ideas emerge that become possibilities on your retirement menu.
Just because you’re thinking of owning a winery or sailing the ocean doesn’t mean you have to do it. Who has considered owning a Bed & Breakfast in the mountains? What about finishing a degree or learning to rebuild a 1969 Mustang?
Dreaming is simply a way to take the time to explore the many “menu” options you might be interested in someday. Before time slips away.
The best meals are all about the prep work. Like any 5-star meal, success is the result of preparation. Lots of chopping. Extra time basting. More butter.
Same goes for your retirement plan. If you simply walk off the job one day, well, then what? It’s unsettling and directionless. So, start doing some prep work well before retiring.
Keeping your ideas and dreams and hopes in mind, look for ways to test your retirement “menu” in advance of the big day. For example:
- I want to volunteer. Great! Where will you actually volunteer? What kinds of roles are available for volunteers? Most non-profits need fundraising. Is that what you picture yourself doing as a volunteer? Look for volunteer organizations in areas that interest you. Become a member, talk to the organizers, try a few jobs on for size. Look for a good fit well before you retire.
- I want to get more involved in my community. Fantastic! What exactly will you be doing in and for your community? Are there groups to join that put on the big July 4th celebration or New Year’s Eve events? Or will you help out a couple of hours a month at the food pantry? Some women’s and men’s groups meet for lunch and plan one annual event. Identifying the kind of community involvement you’re looking for may take some trial and error. Dive in several years before retiring so you can see if this is how you’ll want to spend some of your time.
- I want to own a hobby farm, a store, or restaurant. Exciting! Being a small business owner is a dream many have carried for years. But before jumping in with both feet and a big stash of cash, try it out first. Well before buying something that demands a lot of physical labor, volunteer to work on a local farm for a year to see all the seasons. Talk to the current owner at the hardware store or restaurant and arrange for some work hours on nights and weekends. You may just love this kind of work in retirement. Or not so much.
Retirement is going to be fun!
Put aside the stress of checking your retirement account balance. Just finish your tax prep and move on to planning for your retirement. Many retirees love this part of their journey. They waited with great anticipation to start what they really wanted to do as soon as they could. Yet others are surprised when they have nowhere to go and no clear direction after they leave their job.
With some early planning, brainstorming, and creating something of a “tasting menu” for your own retirement, you can put the fun into your future. And you will have a lot less stress while waiting for this less pleasant economic cycle to run its course.
About the author: Marcia Mantell
Marcia Mantell, RMA®, NSSA® is the founder and president of Mantell Retirement Consulting, Inc., a retirement business and education company. She’s author of “What’s the Deal with Retirement Planning for Women,” “What’s the Deal with Social Security for Women,” “Cookin’ Up Your Retirement Plan,” and blogs at BoomerRetirementBriefs.com.
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