The transition to retirement is just as big a step in life as other milestones like marriage or the birth of a child. It can be exciting for some people. At times, nerve wracking for others. Ultimately, it is the introduction of a brand new, altogether different season in life. And let’s be honest, change—even positive change—can be a challenge.

Whether retirement is on the horizon, or you are already enjoying an endless supply of Saturdays, a little planning can go a long way towards making these some of the best years of your life.

Beware the Sugar Rush

We often see the first months and years of a new retiree’s life filled with activities. Like a little kid who eats all of their Halloween candy in one sitting, the retirement sugar rush is a real thing. Sometimes it’s the big stuff, like vacations to new destinations, or remodeling the house. Or, the little stuff like more time in the backyard garden, or taking that extra-long cruise on the Harley. Those things that sat on the back-burner during the working years finally get attended to because you have the extra time you’ve always wanted.

But what happens when the sugar rush fades? Just like a financial plan is needed to reach your retirement goals, you should also have a plan for what your life looks like when you lose the daily structure of a full time job.

There’s been a lot of research around how people adapt to retiring. One discovery is that retirement can be harder than expected because of all the extra time there is to fill in the day. During the working years, people spend 8 hours (or more) each day engaged in business activities and about 8 hours asleep. This leaves most working individuals with only 7-8 hours on average for all of the rest of “life.” This is the cooking, cleaning, exercise, appointments, family time, entertainment, sports—everything.

It seems counterintuitive. But, consider those times you were on vacation for a week or two and were itching to get back to the office. Now, every day is Saturday. In retirement, you instantly double the number of hours you have to fill each day. We’re talking about 16 hours, every day, for the next 20-30 years. When the vacations slow down and the projects at home are wrapped up, what will you do with your time?

The Road Ahead

How do we maintain the purpose, value, and meaning when we stop working? There are three areas that may help: (1) People, (2) Place, and (3) Passions. Everyone wants different things in life, has different definitions of success, and versions of happiness. But, there are three truths that will surely point anyone in the right direction: surround yourself with the right people, in the right place, pursuing the things that you’re passionate about.

Someone once told me, “The key to a good life is to always have something to look forward to.” I think they were on to something. In terms of retirement planning, it is all too easy to get entrenched in the numbers. Don’t simply retire on purpose, when you can afford to. Step into retirement with purpose, and live this season of life to the fullest!

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