How to Prepare Emotionally for Retirement
Ah! Retirement! Finally, we will have time to do what we want to do! We can travel, spend a day at the beach, see the world, and enjoy life for a change! No more daily grind at the workplace and no more bowing to the boss or the company! No more stress, crowded schedules, and multiple demands on our time and energy! We can sleep in, relax, and take it easy!
Unfortunately, the reality of the matter may be very different than what we are anticipating. With the increased mobility of our society, there may still be a mortgage to pay on the house. The rapidly changing dynamics of family life leave children marrying later in life, and many have become frustrated with the education system and sagging job market. Perhaps we find ourselves offering much needed assistance due to financial necessity.
We may be spending long days and nights in clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes due to our own deteriorating health or that of our aging parents. It is no wonder that divorce and suicide rates are highest in those over age 50! Our fears of loneliness, ill health, poverty, abandonment, and death become realities that tarnish our golden years as we experience life's difficulties.
We can avoid becoming one of the sad statistics by preparing emotionally for retirement. Taking our temperature now in the areas of physical health, finances, family, leisure activities, and spiritual development allows us to make necessary adjustments before retiring rather than waiting for crises situations to impose them upon us.
Check physical health
Our physical and emotional health are inseparable, they affect each other. When we are down physically, most likely we are down emotionally. Working on improving our physical health will give our emotions a boost just as much as improving emotional health makes us feel more like being physically active.
- Have a regular physical checkup. Accept the fact that age and life take their toll on physical health.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Adequate rest, relaxation, exercise, and nutrition make a definite difference in the quality of the retirement years.
- Look at possible options for health insurance. Medicare is available at age 65, however, it is not a comprehensive health plan. Supplemental insurance is needed and desirable.
If job stress is an issue, consider moving to a less demanding position as a transition to retirement. Check to see if there are company benefits for early retirement. There may be extensions available for health insurance, or even a buyout of years left enabling early retirement, or the possibility of taking on less demanding responsibilities while still retaining seniority.
Don't wait until chronic health problems set in before considering lifestyle changes. Health is everything during retirement. Add years and quality to life by following recommend screenings for age, body type, and genetic predisposition. See the chart below for those provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Recommended health screenings for women and men
Starting at age 50, every 2 years
Every 5 years
Bone Mineral Density
Age 65 or if high risk of osteoporosis
Only if urinary issues are present
Every 2 years if normal, every year if high
Every 2 years if normal, every year if high
Regularly if at high risk of heart disease
Yearly starting at age 35
Start at age 50
Start at age 50
If age 65 or older and history of smoking
If high blood pressure
If high blood pressure
Only if high risk
Only if high risk
Check financial status
Financial independence means freedom from debt. Before retirement can be enjoyed, financial obligations must be met. Plan to pay off debts, including mortgages, car payments, and all consumer loans such as credit cards, department store accounts, and educational loans. Living on retirement funds means living on a fixed income for most people. Waiting to pay off debts with retirement funds uses them up very quickly.
Map out the income to be received between now and retirement. Look at assets versus liabilities. Ask how these can be best used to achieve the greatest amount of financial freedom. If an investment is on both sides of the equation as income and as debt, consider the possibility of liquidating prior to retirement. Pay off the debt and use the extra money to pay down other obligations.
As financial matters are resolved, the resulting benefits are peace of mind, reduced stress load, and the ability to make wise decisions for the future. Age requires changes in the financial portfolio to reduce the amount of risk involved in investments. Funds need to be readily available for health expenses, long-term care, and eventually, for death. Consider prepaying funeral and burial expenses. Decrease the need for inherited funds to be used to discharge end of life obligations.
We never know what may be coming around the bend in our retirement years. The groundwork that we do prior to that time will provide a foundation for what lies ahead.
Check family circumstances
As we age, the dynamics of our families change. Children move out of the home and the relationship between husband and wife comes full circle. Taking the time before retirement to renew the marriage relationship ensures that it will continue. Overcome differences by remembering the goals and desires of the first years together. Find common interests and activities. Establish habits of togetherness.
Naturally, our thoughts and desires turn to our children and grandchildren. We do our best to provide them with an education, see that their marriages are properly acknowledged and celebrated, and then hope for the best as they go out on their own. Yet, where and when does our obligation end?
Is it our position as parents to take our children in when they are struggling financially? Does being a parent automatically put us in the position of being default child care providers? Are we responsible when our children get into legal trouble? How about our own needs? At what point do the tables turn and we depend upon our children for our sustenance?
These and many other questions must be answered on an individual level. Each family is different, and cultural norms and expectations must be taken into consideration. Even then, it is our responsibility to set our own limits and let our family know what we are willing - and unwilling - to do for them.
Once a child is married, a fully functioning independent unit of society has been formed. Legally, the parents are no longer held accountable for what happens to that individual. In fact, once a person reaches the age of 18, they are prosecuted as an adult, and parents are not required to answer in their behalf. The individual is legally responsible for his or her own actions.
Family circumstances sometimes require parents to put their foot down, and say, "it is time for you to stand on your own. I can no longer provide for you." Hard earned savings put aside for old age must be protected, or they will disappear right before they are needed the most. Family members need to know and understand that the parents needs are important as well.
Check leisure time activities
Leisure time during the working years is often used for items of necessity, such as doing yard ward, home repairs, and taking children to their various activities. As retirement approaches, we have more options when it comes to our leisure time activities, and sometimes we feel torn between spending time with our extended family, and doing something that we enjoy. We can ask ourselves the following questions:
- Do I have a personal hobby?
- Are there physical activities that I enjoy doing?
- Have I spent time recently with my children or grandchildren?
- Is there an activity outside of the home that my spouse and I participate in together that we both enjoy?
If the answer to all of these questions is yes, life is most likely well-rounded and retirement will be an enjoyable experience. If any one of these elements is missing, consider adding it before retirement. Time is elusive, and it slips through our hands more quickly as we age. We do not want to end up on our death beds wishing we had spent more time with those we love.
At the same time, we do not want to spend so much time doing things for and with our families, that we loose our sense of self-worth as individuals and couples. There is a fine balance between fulfilling family responsibilities and having personal enjoyment during retirement. Seeing that both of these needs are met will make retirement a blessing we can look forward to.
Check your spiritual development
Spirituality is a very personal matter. In order to keep it that way, we need to have time by ourselves with God. When we are working, it is easier to find time away from our spouse for quiet moments of personal reflection and meditation. Once we retire, we are with our spouses the majority of the time. Make a joint decision now that personal time will be granted on a daily basis.
We each have to face our own mortality as individuals. Most people do not have the luxury of dying at that same time as their spouse! When one goes before the other, a large gap is formed in the social circle. Prepare for this time now by developing a spiritual relationship with God through prayer, meditation, regular study of the scriptures, and participating in worship services. Choose to serve others in a spiritual capacity. Doing so keeps loneliness at a minimum.
Life is filled with joys and sorrows, we cannot have one without the other. The preparation we make now for retirement will give us the emotional health to go forward. The crises and inconveniences we experience will not be devastating, but a normal part of the retirement experience. We will have the means to do what is needed, and the emotional strength to help others do the same!
Take the time now and prepare, for your emotional health.
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