Friday, December 18, 2015

Are you prepared for retirement--its not about the money

When I first thought about retiring back in 2005, it was an easy decision; I made the decision to retire, because my wife had undergone serious medical problems, which had forced her to retire. So I thought life is too short, I should retire as well; so I did. Very little thought and very little planning about what my life would be like once I retired.

My wife however as she was recovering from her medical issues, had time to think about and plan what she would do, with her life, so she was ready to retire. I was not. I had been to one retirement planning seminar so I thought I knew what to expect. I didn't and this blog is part of my struggle to figure out what happened

For the last ten years I have been wrestling with the idea of retirement and what my life should look like and I have not yet made the transformation as I continue to see myself as a worker albeit a part time worker, not a retired person.

Everyone is different, but dreams are important to the process and discussing your goals and ideas about what your life will be like should be discussed. They should be discussed not only with your spouse or significant other but with your family, both children and parents and your friends. your life will change.  Discuss it with your family and friends, get some feedback and compare notes.

From my own experience and from reading there are a number of stages of retirement. 

The first is called by many names, the GO GO Stage, the Honeymoon Phase,  Active Retirement  the Accumulation Stage, the Kicking forward stage a Transitional phase or just Phase One. 

What I found out about in my first ten years of retirement was that I continued to be active. For many of us the first few years are the most active phase of retirement. My friends and I thought we we were only partially retired, because we were all collecting a pension, after leaving a long-term jobs but we were also working part time by choice. 

At first, my mental ability and those of my friends did not seem to suffer, nor did our physical ability, but over time we have all noticed a decline in at least our physical level.  I write this blog to keep my mind active. Two of my friends suffered from Alzheimer's and one of them died last year; I had a hip and knee replaced which slowed down my physical activity. For eight of the ten years I continued to volunteer as a way to keep me busy.

My brother and my brother-in-law who recently retired see this time as an opportune time to fulfill their dreams. My brother is not working, but my brother in law turned his hobby into a rewarding and well paying part time job.

Travel is one of the things that I have done, every year since I retired, as have my friends. Travelling is a major activity, which for some of my friends has included adventure travel to exotic locations. Travelling may be part of this first phase for you and should be seen as a chance to grow your mind. Also, this is a phase when you can exercise and participate in sports at a much greater intensity level than prior to retirement.

I now play golf while my brother focuses on his tennis daily, while other of my friends prefer scenic hiking and walking. Retirement so far for me has been a blend of travelling, working, volunteering and enjoying life and new freedom from work. I have found time to write reflect, re-evaluate, and assess my life. I also have taken time to rest, relax and to re-think about what life and liberty mean to me. In the last ten years, I believe that I have accomplished many things without the strain of outside work pressures.

For me this stage has been hectic and at times stressful. I realize now that if I had taken the time, prior to retirement, I would have tried to put down some goals and I might have even created a mission statement for my retirement.

I would recommend that you do this, as it will make the first phase less stressful. You have energy, skills, expertise, and enthusiasm that are valuable, and so figure out how you want to apply your gifts to your goals. Figure out what do you want to do with the time and energy you have available.

From my reading and from discussions there is a second phase of retirement, which can last about 10 years and usually kicks in when a retired person hits their mid-70's although health reasons could cause this phase to happen earlier.

This second phase is called the GO Slow stage, The Kicking Back years, The Preservation Years or the Passive years

Because of health problems, retirees in this phase may incur extra medical expenses, and they often have high prescription drug costs. Adequate insurance becomes more of an issue during this phase, although some of the health costs may not be covered by medical insurance. Generally, other help needed at this point will not be covered by long-term care insurance. 

Related to health conditions, retirees may need to make decisions concerning their housing. They may have to decide if they need to move to a house that is more physically manageable fix up their home, or to an assisted living facility in a retirement community. Given this concern, specially designed housing can be extremely helpful.

For couples, it may be that only one is experiencing Phase Two, while the other is still working and/or healthy or is still in Phase One of retirement. This presents the healthy spouse with responsibilities to ensure assistance is needed for the ailing spouse. 

For the types of assistance needed during this phase, the family generally is the primary source of help, perhaps supplemented by others. Community and paid services for assistance may also be available.

Relationships and interactions with others usually become more meaningful in this phase. For example, being near family and having their support is helpful, although not always possible. In terms of personal interactions, many retirees in this phase enjoy various volunteer activities and clubs. 

Volunteer activities offer a way to reach out to others and give back at the same time. Book clubs and game groups are typical examples of these activities. In addition to providing needed physical support, one of the advantages of retirement communities and specialized housing is that they offer the chance to make new contacts and friends.

For those who want to travel and have the resources to do so, travel needs to be planned to fit the limitations of the individual. Cruises offer a good option for retirees with modest limitations. Likewise, national parks in the U.S. and Canada offer a wide range of walking opportunities. 

For retirees in this phase who are less mobile, travel may be more confined to visiting with others, rather than sightseeing and touring. A common reality of this phase is that those who traveled much earlier in retirement may find this a time where they need to cut back either because of health issues or financial resources.

Phase three is called the Frail Years, the No Go Years, the Slow Down Years or Final Retirement years.

Phase Three is the least active phase of retirement and it is a time when retirees likely will have substantial need for assistance. Like Phase Two, Phase Three, if it occurs, does not begin at the same age for all retirees but by the time the retiree is in his/her mid 80's this is the stage they are experiencing.

The need for assistance may arise due to cognitive or physical impairment or both. Some retirees in this phase are unable to speak or write, and communication can be very difficult.

Retirees are much less physically active during this phase. Activities will generally be limited, but special exercises can be designed for those with limitations. 

For most, driving may no longer be feasible. Mobility and transportation are a significant issue, particularly if there is not a family member available to help.

Appropriate and regular support is an important aspect of this phase. Many retirees will prefer to stay in their own homes, if possible. For most retirees requiring nursing home care, long-term care insurance will pay some benefits, but relatively few of them have it. 

The prospects for retirees in this phase vary considerably depending on the type of disabilities they have, and whether they have access to caregivers such as family. In terms of who provides the care giving, family is often the primary source of this support. Community and paid services may also be available.

In many cases, family caregivers may need to leave their jobs because of the intensive demands of care giving. Such situations can also create great personal and financial strains. 

Difficult decisions regarding living arrangements occur frequently when a great deal of care giving is needed. For instance, during Phase Three, many retirees will need to decide if their present housing is suitable and at what point housing requiring less maintenance, a senior community, assisted living or a nursing home is necessary. 

Whether present housing is suitable will depend on such features as the number of steps in the house, access for wheelchairs, daily assistance needs, and proximity to health care providers. Because of health problems, retirees in this phase usually have extra medical expenses, and they often have high prescription drug costs.

Relationships and interactions with others are very important in this phase. As in Phase Two, being near family is helpful but not always possible. Many individuals in this phase will no longer be able to participate in the social activities they previously did. One of the advantages of assisted living is that retirees  in this stage can get the help they need while also challenging their minds and bodies.

Many dynamic retirees in assisted living or living on their own even at this stage are constantly challenging themselves, learning, taking risks, trying new experiences, meeting new people, and reinventing themselves constantly.

My mother-in-law who is in her late 80’s belongs to a Seniors Choir and she is one of the youngsters in that Choir. Other people I know in their 90's are dancing, painting, acting, creative writing, teaching, or tackling photography. 

I have friends who know seniors who are involved in activities such as Nordic walking, swimming, fishing, hiking, weight training, doing yoga and Pilates, Zumba, geocaching, running, biking, and snowboarding. You name it there are seniors involved. 

Some are taking courses in organic gardening, quilting,  a new language, art history, economics, and social justice. The opportunities to learn are everywhere in a formal or informal manner.

We tell our children and grandchildren that they are only restricted by our own imaginations. We need to listen to our own advice. Options for further learning include continuing education, the Internet, community centers, libraries, clubs, local colleges or universities, and fitness facilities.

Before you retire, take the time to imagine life in retirement and see what kind of picture comes into focus. As you prepare for retirement, what are you looking forward to the most? 

Do not be like me and struggle through Phase one, prepare now, life is good, retirement is getting better every day.

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