Sharon Basaraba, a Healthy Aging Expert and syndicated Longevity Columnist for CBC Radio says the old model of working until 65 to finance 10 years of retirement is out of date. “Now greater longevity means you’ve got to make sure your body and your brain are aging as well as possible so you can enjoy that extra time,” she says.
Planning what you’ll do when you leave work is also essential to a successful retirement, says Mark Singer, co-author of The Six Secrets of a Happy Retirement. It’s important to consider what you’ll do with all your new-found free time. “That’s forty or fifty or sixty hours a week. You’re not going to just sit at home. Your spouse won’t let you do that,” Singer says.
Playing more golf and spending more time with family may not be enough. “After the honeymoon period, many people are bored. They have not thought through how they are going to replace the social interaction, structure, identity and sense of accomplishment they get from work,” says work and life coach Eileen Chadnick, the principal of Big Cheese Coaching.
Singer says prospective retirees need to think about their retirement well ahead of the big date. “You really have to visualize how you are going to spend your time in retirement at least six months, if not three years ahead of time to understand what you are going to do with all those hours you used to work.”
But he also believes that post-retirement life goals should be explored in parallel with financial planning for retirement. “If you want to travel more in retirement you need to put a number on how much that will cost so you factor your annual travel costs into your retirement budget.”
Basaraba’s primary advice for future retirees is not to quit work cold turkey. “You have the freedom to play a little bit with things that interest you and worry less about status. For example a former senior executive can mentor younger employees or work one or two days a week on strategy instead of being on call 24/7,” she says.
In fact working longer may even be good for your health. A 2008 study looking at age at retirement and mortality found that in comparison to subjects still employed, retirees had a 51% increase in all cause mortality. Furthermore, among retirees, a five year increase in age at retirement was associated with a 10% decrease in mortality.
However, Chadnick says staying at work longer or embracing a new career is not the answer for everyone. “You need to get in touch with your values and priorities. You may have an artistic and creative side you never had a chance to honour or nurture. Or, you may really want to volunteer and give back.”
When coaching clients approaching retirement, she takes them through a guided exploration to help find their compass for the next stage. “I ask them to look at their past and find peak moments that jazzed them. We peel back the layers to find out what it was about travel or building a new house that can be ‘right-sized’ into their life now.”
“Before you retire you need to consider what you need to thrive. You need to get to know yourself all over again,” Chadnick says.