Realistic Retirement: Leveraging expectations with reality.

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Our culture builds a certain degree of optimism around the concept of retirement—people  “can’t wait to retire” and it’s a constant goal to be financially stable enough to do so. A lot of recent and near-future retirees go into retirement with something of an impossible idealism about the entire venture, believing that they’ll finally be able to let go and have the world take care of them for a while. This isn’t necessarily misplaced—after a few decades in the workforce, the prospect of not having to work anymore for a living is a welcome one. But as many retirees come to realize, retirement itself isn’t as carefree as we’d like to think it is. Here are a few general tips to help keep you grounded while handling the excitement that comes with the prospect of retiring.

  1. Health is your new job.

The reality for many retirees is that staying healthy is going to become a full-time job after retirement. Not only will being outside of the workforce make it so you feel less inclined to keep a schedule, it also means that you have no specific guarantee of getting even a bit of exercise in over the course of a day. As much as the prospect of retirement seems to condone doing and eating what you want, it becomes more important than ever to focus on maintaining an exercise schedule and healthy diet.

  1. You need a plan for your free time.

Many retirees will find themselves with more free time than they know what to do with, and without a plan or project, it’s easy to lose that time to television or other frivolous activities. Have an idea of something productive you’d like to get involved in or pick back up after retirement to help guarantee that your creative energies and your retirement itself isn’t wasted. Even while the efforts aren’t strictly necessary, they will help keep you grounded—accomplishments bring with them self-esteem, and it’s important to keep those rolling in.

  1. Don’t lose touch with your working self.

Even while it may seem like a good time to shed your working skin and allow yourself some degree of reinvention, it’s not a bad idea to keep in touch with a few of your older habits well into your retirement. You’ll find that a lot of your retirement is spent managing your own life just as you may find yourself managing aspects of your old job—scheduling, finances, goals, all of these things will require more careful attention now that you’re living off of your accumulated savings, and letting go completely will leave you much worse off down the road.

Working with a financial advisor will help make sure that your retirement is a long and fruitful one. Don’t let the myth surrounding leaving the workforce disillusion you into thinking retirement itself isn’t work—it’s just a different kind of work, and one that you’ll have to learn how to do effectively as you would any other job. Keep an eye on your health, keep a steady stream of projects, and most importantly, don’t lose touch.