Are you mentally ready for retirement?

I recently went to the bookstore to look for some books on retirement planning. My wife and I were getting ready for a month long trip I called “rehearsal for retirement” and I was looking for something to read. I saw lots of books on financial planning for retirement, but not much else. Of course the money part is important, but I wanted to figure out how we are going to adjust to a retirement lifestyle after years of busy careers.

The question is what to do with all the time you used to spend working? While the idea of sitting around and doing nothing can be appealing for a while, most of us will get bored in time. The other extreme can be just as bad in its own way. Jumping into new projects around the house, volunteering for everything that comes along, traveling without any plan, or depending on friends and family to fill your days can lead to burnout.

The books I did find have a common theme; you need to plan for the transition to retirement. Retirement can mean time to do what we want to do (play), not what we have to do (work). With out some kind of plan we are like a boat without a rudder and just drift along. This can be fine for a while but if you don’t watch out you can shipwreck. For some, the end of work life can happen unexpectedly, such as being laid off from your employment. Others can see retirement coming. Either way it is a good idea to take some time and come up with a road map for the years ahead. Much like a map, you don’t need to see all the details of the journey but you should have an idea of where to turn so you get where you are going. I discovered even with a month on the road we still could not see everything, but we could see a lot. I also saw the importance of looking for options when something gets in your way, such as the forest fires going on out west while we were traveling.

Think about what things you might like to try or do again. We both have a sense of adventure and like to see new places and do new things. Others like to stay with the familiar. My guess is as I get older I will want to stick to the familiar more and more.

Several of my friends who are retired have gone on to new careers, either paid or not. Myself, I left management to go back to doing counseling. Some might call it work, and I don’t mind the extra money, but I get a sense of purpose helping others. Some people I know have gotten involved volunteering and using their talents in the nonprofit sector. One said, “I am busier now than when I was working, but I am having fun doing it.” A few have taken off to travel and see the world. Others have moved away to some place they choose to be, not have to be.

There’s no right or wrong answer, and what works early in your retirement might not work forever. The important thing is to consider some options before you find your self with all the time in the world and no idea what to spend it on.

Next time making your road map for retirement.