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5 Things You Need To Know Before You Retire: Lessons from Our Clients Thumbnail

5 Things You Need To Know Before You Retire: Lessons from Our Clients

Over our years in retirement planning, we've been privileged to help guide more than 100 families into happy, fulfilling retirements.

Through their first-hand experiences, incredible life lessons, and at times amusing missteps, we've discovered so much about the keys to a smooth transition and enjoyable retirement.

Today we want to pay forward the top lessons on retirement preparation that we've gathered working with over a hundred retired clients.

Whether you're just starting to envision your future retired life or are closing in on your retirement date, these tips can help you avoid some common pitfalls. They can also set you up to embrace retirement's exciting opportunities and newfound freedom.

Retiring clients have taught us that a fulfilling next phase takes more than just saving enough money (although that too!). It requires reimagining your identity, nurturing relationships, keeping your mind active, and above all finding renewed purpose without work.

Today we want to condense all that priceless knowledge into the top 5 retirement preparation lessons for you.

Key Takeaways

Transitioning to a fulfilling, enjoyable retirement requires some preparation and realistic mindset shifts. Here are the core lessons on retirement preparation from our years of helping clients:

  • Before retiring, start establishing structure and routines for your days to prevent boredom later
  • Prepare mentally for your identity to evolve, focusing on self-growth 
  • Expect money to matter less day-to-day than fulfillment from experiences 
  • Treat your brain health as importantly as body health with mental exercise 
  • Be proactive about nurturing important relationships as contexts change

No one can fully predict just what their retirement experience will be like. But keeping these key lessons in mind - from those already living it - can set you up for the best years ahead!

1. Structure Your Time Before You Have "Free Time"

The number one positive our retired clients report is a newfound sense of freedom and flexibility. No more alarm clocks, commutes, or office politics! However, with all that free time comes an obligation to structure it in some way.

We've had many clients warn us that the lack of structure after retiring is jarring. One day your schedule is jam-packed, the next you have no obligations at all. It's an exciting prospect until the reality of endless unscheduled days sets in.

The key is to think ahead about how to establish structure, purpose, and routine in retirement before pulling the plug from work. Retirement is longer than any summer vacation, so you'll need to find activities, relationships, and projects that motivate you regularly.

Tips for adding structure:

  • Take on part-time work or consulting
  • Volunteer for causes you care about
  • Establish daily routines for exercise, hobbies, etc.
  • Make regular social commitments
  • Plan projects around the house or travel
  • Set aside regular "me time" without commitments

The more planning you put into maintaining structure before retiring, the smoother your transition will be.

2. Your Identity Will Change, But You're Still You

Another common theme we've heard from retirees is the startling shift in personal identity after leaving the workforce. Most people strongly identify with their career or job title their entire adult lives. Retiring causes you to lose that identity virtually overnight.

It's completely normal to go through a period of searching for your "new identity" in retirement. You may struggle with defining yourself by your hobbies rather than career. Or you might feel a bit lost when people ask what you do now.

The key is remembering that while your identity will change, the core of who you are has not. Focus on your personal values, passions, relationships, and knowledge - these parts of you remain as strong as ever.

Be patient with yourself as you adjust to your new identity over the first couple years of retirement.

Tips for navigating the identity shift:

  • Talk openly with family and friends about how you're feeling
  • Embrace retirement as a new chapter to explore new identities
  • Remember your self-worth isn't defined by your job title
  • Find communities to connect with who share your interests
  • Volunteer doing something that taps your skills and passion
  • Stay purposeful by always learning new things

The more you focus on personal growth and purpose, the less you'll get hung up on just a label. You're still the same awesome you!

3. Money Will Still Be Important, But Fulfillment Is More So

It's natural to be anxious about having enough savings to last your retirement. But we commonly hear from retirees that money becomes less important after leaving work, while life enrichment and fulfillment grow more important.

When all your days are "free days" with no obligations, you begin prioritizing more than dollar amounts. Things like relationships, personal growth, and enjoyment take on new meaning compared to saving or scrimping

This isn't to say money isn't still vitally important in funding this life enrichment! However, once you've reasonably secured your retirement savings, fulfillment tends to take priority in the day-to-day.

Tips for finding retirement fulfillment:

  • Discover new passions and curiosities to pursue
  • Set yearly core goals focused on personal growth
  • Make enrichment a priority in your budget
  • Volunteer doing something meaningful that helps others
  • Travel to inspiring new places when possible
  • Focus less on accumulating and more on experiencing

Purpose and meaning ultimately provide more day-to-day contentment than dollar amounts. Retirement is the perfect time to make enriching your life and others' a priority.

4. Your Brain Will Need Exercise Just Like Your Body

Many clients admit they underestimated just how much they would miss the regular mental stimulation from work. Challenging projects, learning new skills, collaborating with colleagues - these activities keep our brains sharp.

Without them, retirees often struggle with boredom, distraction, or even cognitive decline.

The key is recognizing you need to exercise your brain in retirement just as you would your physical health. Make time for mentally engaging activities, continue learning new things, take on intellectually demanding volunteer projects or hobbies.

Treat your brain health as importantly as your body, heart, and emotional health.

Tips for keeping your brain active:

  • Learn new skills like language, music, crafts
  • Read books on diverse topics
  • Try mentally stimulating activities like puzzles
  • Take an interesting class at a local college
  • Teach or tutor students struggling in school
  • Engage in analytical hobbies like chess or investing

Staying sharp mentally will help you get the most out of your retirement years while also keeping cognitive decline at bay.

5. Your Relationships Will Evolve, So Nurture Them

Finally, retiring brings an evolution in personal relationships that many don't consider. With so much more free time, you'd expect to grow closer to friends and family. But we often hear the opposite from new retirees - relationships fading rather than deepening.

Why? Because the context changes. No more weekday watercooler talks with colleagues. Friends and family members still work or have other commitments limiting connection time. Retirees suddenly feel more distant from loved ones rather than less.

Tips for nurturing retirement relationships:

  • Communicate clearly how important friends/family are
  • Schedule regular video calls or meetups
  • Join community groups or take classes to meet new people
  • Share your schedule and let people know when you're available
  • Offer help with childcare/tasks for loved ones when possible
  • Initiate relationship-building activities like games, events, trips

With some creativity and initiative, you can grow relationships stronger than ever in retirement. But it does require effort, so start now.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we get on preparing for a fulfilling retirement:

How early should I start planning activities, relationships, etc. for retirement?

Ideally 3-5 years prior to your target retirement date, you'll want to put serious thought into the non-financial parts of your retired life. That gives enough time to prepare mentally, establish new routines slowly, pick up hobbies, and nurture relationships ahead of the transition.

How many hours a day should I try to fill with activities in retirement?

This varies widely by person and your health needs. In the early years of vital retirement, plan for 4-6 hours of meaningful activities daily. This prevents boredom but still leaves plenty of relaxation time. Over time as your energy changes, adapt your daily goals. Just always pursue enough purpose to stay motivated.

What percentage of my time should I spend planning finances vs life enrichment before retirement?

Ideally, earlier in your planning focus 80% on finances and 20% on enrichment planning. But in your last 3 years before retiring, shift that balance to 50/50 if possible. Getting your mindset and non-financial aspects prepared becomes critical leading up to actual retirement.

Who should I surround myself with in retirement to stay happy?

The relationships most important to you won't always be the longest ones, but rather the most nourishing and mutually engaging ones. Evaluate all your current relationships for commitment to growth together. Then focus efforts on those with the most positive potential looking ahead to retirement.

Final Thoughts

We hope these retirement preparation tips from real-world client experiences prove helpful! The key is being intentional about how you structure your days, nurture your mind and relationships, and cultivate purpose once work ends.

With some planning and the right mindset, you can craft a retirement that's fulfilling, exciting, and almost certainly better than you imagine.

👉 If you would like to get a FREE retirement assessment, click the link to schedule your 20-minute call to start the retirement assessment process.

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