Now is the time to start thinking about retirement — especially if you want to figure out how to make retirement work for you.
Today, we talk a lot about doing things on our own terms. As I reflect on what I want now, as well as what I want out of life later, I think a lot about how to make retirement work for me. Gone is the idea that you will work for 30 years and then sit at home, doing almost nothing, for another 15 to 20 years. The realities of the workplace and the economy just don't support that idea anymore.
Many of us don't want that sort of retirement anyway.
What you do need to do, however, is figure out how to make retirement work for you.
Freedom Rather Than Retirement
First of all, many people are rebelling against the idea of a “retirement.” Instead, it's more about creating a situation in which you are free to enjoy life on your terms. Before you can figure out what you need to get there, however, you need to decide what freedom looks like to you.
Look at your own values and priorities. Think ahead. What would your ideal lifestyle look like? I'd like to keep writing (although maybe I'd do more pet projects and less writing for hire). I want to travel more, including taking longer trips that allow us the ability to establish a “home base” for a couple of months. My husband might like travel more if we could take it slow.
I also want time to help in the community, and visit family and friends.
You might have your own idea of what financial freedom looks like, and what makes sense in retirement. Carefully consider these issues. You'll only know how to make retirement work after you've decided what it should look like for you.
Dealing with Reality
Of course, part of planning for retirement involves dealing with reality. Sometimes, you aren't able to line everything up perfectly. In those cases, it's important to re-examine your situation. You might need to check for more affordable places to retire and give over the thought of living in paradise.
Another reality is that you might have to work a little bit longer, depending on how much you have saved up, and what is happening with the market and the economy as you approach retirement.
Creativity is important when you start thinking about long-term planning and retirement as well. Are there ways you can reduce your costs? Many retirees downsize their homes and their lives once the children are grown and out of the house. My family and I downsized our living situation and we're not even close to what someone would consider the retirement phase. We just knew that moving across the country would mean that we needed to change the way we do things — and we have. It's been a big benefit.
It's not always easy to figure out how to make retirement work for you. However, if you are willing to plan ahead, and if you are willing to make a few changes, it's possible to create a lifestyle you enjoy, no matter what stage of life you are in.