Your Money or Your Life: the living plan in retirement years

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It’s rather ironic how we plan to retire comfortably, eventually achieve this valued plan, and then have no idea how to live within the new parameters that our carefully constructed strategy over many years presents.

One particularly difficult element of our ‘new normal’ in retirement, is understanding that the savings process is mostly over – and all that hard work, planning, saving, monthly contributions and general penny-pinching is done with; the savings are now meant to be put to work to give you the life in retirement you hoped for – as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean you may spend money with abandon, or entirely discontinue your financial savings, but within your income plan you can now allow yourself less focus on the future because the future is the here and now. You will still need to maintain a budget and be aware of your spending habits, because getting into debt in the retirement years is definitely not advised.

How to use your hard-earned savings to enjoy your retirement years

Health: While you need to keep up your medical insurance, and any savings plan that contributes to this, you have time to devote to improving your health and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. No matter how much money you have put aside, it’s not going to protect you from the slings and arrows of poor health that an aging body may experience. So begin an exercise regime, take a walk every day, do deep breathing exercises, and avoid the couch. Make sure you eat a balanced diet, because it’s never too late to change a lifetime of poor habits.

Social connection: Mental health surely has to combine with the physical. Friends and family are invariably the bedrocks of a happy retirement. It’s most important to avoid loneliness, because this only leads to depression. And keeping busy doesn’t mean working – it means meeting up with friends, organising events, and keeping abreast of activities you can participate in. If you are lucky enough to still be involved in sports, keep that up and make it a regular part of your life. Always keep in touch with people.

Retirement isn’t just about the money: Let’s not beat about the bush – the money is very important. However, it’s never everything. There are wealthy retirees who are fairly miserable. Your happiness boils down to your capacity for spending to enrich your life. Will you take courses in new skills? Will you prefer to take a cruise? Do you want or need to work again? Are you able to take the strain of starting your own business? If you’re afraid to spend your hard-earned life savings, think about setting aside a monthly budget specifically for enjoying yourself. Obviously what you can afford, but seriously – what has this long journey of building a retirement fund been for, if you cannot spend some of it on good times? After all, you have earned it!

Working in retirement can make you happiest of all: You may have to work to supplement your pension or savings. This is a reality that many people face. But in retirement, you can plan your working life with greater perspective; it may not be quite the stressed life you led while planning for your retirement – as an older worker or part-time worker, you should have more control over how you work and the hours required. Work gets us out of the house, forces interaction with more people and more physical activity. Even if volunteering, you are developing connections and conversation with others.

Prepare for the ups and downs: The reality of retirement is that it may not always be plain sailing. Life can throw a curved ball at any time, so keeping an emergency fund at the ready is still highly recommended. Security in retirement is important and it may affect your attitude as to how you approach this time; if you see it as a time of boredom and loss of relevance, you are going to find it hard going. And if you feel like this, then the amount of money you have to enjoy your retirement doesn’t mean much. You need to psychologically prepare as much as financially prepare. Being happy is a state of mind that may have nothing to do with anything other than outlook.

The point in retirement is to have a life: Don’t dwell on your working days. Challenge yourself to begin afresh. Learn a new language, join a dance class, play chess, cards, or join a walking club. Use your free time to continue to challenge yourself mentally and physically. Adopt a rescue animal or two. Do something different. Plan a party, entertain. Schedule time for well-deserved treats. Now is the time to spend on a course in a subject you’ve always been interested in – such as art, history, jewellery making. Whatever interests you will keep you focused, purposeful, and therefore happy. If you skimp on things that will make you truly happy (and this doesn’t mean spending a fortune) then you have missed the point of retirement.

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