Your dream retirement may resemble the sunset beaches of Bali, with the promise of a life of leisure and ‘me-time’, where days merge seamlessly into each other. Is it Monday, Wednesday or Saturday? Who cares when you can lie back and relax?
Others think retirement should be more like Italy – a super busy mix of work, social activities and family. For these retirees, work is the important glue which adds structure to their days and lives, and provides a much-needed stream of cash to keep the party rolling. While others may long for a more conservative regime – say Germany – where things are highly organised, tightly budgeted and entirely predictable.
The good news is, whichever ‘retirement nation’ you choose, it is possible to lead a rich retirement on a low income. How? you might wonder, as you struggle with the knowledge that you will be one of the 75 per cent of Australians aged 65 plus living on a fixed income based on a full or part Age Pension. If you are one of the fortunate 25 per cent not likely to be on a pension and with access to life’s luxuries, congratulations.
But even the financially well off will need to plan to avoid what might become an empty and unfulfilling lifetime of Saturdays. So read on for our essential ingredients to transition to a rich retirement, regardless of your income.
Make a well-planned transition
Change frightens most people. This is regardless of whether the change is to a desirable life stage such as retirement. Many of us need time to work our way into a new situation. So to give up full time work and lurch into full time vacation, paradoxically, tends to place many people under a great deal of stress. A loss of identity, swiftly followed by a loss of self-esteem can follow. Those who segue into life after work tend to do much better in the happiness stakes. So, starting your move from full-time work into one or two days fewer per week makes a lot of sense. Perhaps the new trend of ‘long-weekend retirees’ (LOWEs) is the way to go – working Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in your regular job and exploring ‘life after work’ across a longer weekend.
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Stay socially and emotionally connected
Connection is now interpreted as a multi-device state. But true connection is more likely to be about the time you spend device free; time spent using the old-fashioned senses – talking, listening and touching. Yes, we can use technology to remain
in touch with friends in far-flung places, but why text or email a loved one when a hug is possible? Most research tells us that it is isolation which kills older people ahead of chronic disease. So it’s time to audit your connections with other people, and to work on improving this aspect of your life before your head into full-time retirement.
It’s still called love, actually.
Maintain your sense of purpose
Without purpose there is no reason to get out of bed in the morning.
What creates your sense of purpose is intensely personal. But it is critical to have something more than yourself to work towards. For decades, our occupation may have provided our primary purpose – although most people would argue that it is their family that tops the list. But when we leave full-time work, or take a less responsible or non-paid role, and the family leaves home or perhaps we lose a life- long partner, then we have to work out what it is that matters enough to keep our body and soul together.
Create an interesting and varied structure
Do you keep a diary? Of course you do. Whether electronic or old-fashioned paper, it’s how we keep track of the many events we must attend and the obligations we need to honour. If anything, a busy diary becomes even more important in retirement. So if you are planning on going part-time or even moving to full-time retirement, consider plotting your days and activities over a four-week period.
This will reveal how busy you might be – or how empty your days could become if you have yet to join new groups or pursue new hobbies. Scary? Exactly. So armed with this foresight, think again how quickly you wish to make the leap to life in Bali, Italy, Germany or whichever retirement nation you prefer.
Keep on moving
What’s the point of having long-awaited time and well-planned financial freedom if your health has packed it in? And don’t think this can’t or won’t happen to you. It is a sad reality for many Australians that just as they are moving into that much-anticipated timeout, they receive a diagnosis of a life-threatening condition. The good news is that many chronic medical conditions are avoidable. And it is low-cost or no-cost habits such as walking, reducing alcohol, eating sensibly and having regular checkups that keep us in the fit zone. So make a pact with yourself today that 2015 is the year you will honour your body by keeping your weight within the recommended BMI, eating five serves of vegetables and two of fruit each day, reducing red meat and alcohol, and establishing sensible sleep and exercise routines. You literally won’t know yourself, and will find the extra energy that is essential to your ongoing retirement wellbeing.