Retirement. It’s the ultimate long-range goal. It’s also a goal that almost everyone has in common. We are all working hard for the money so that one day we can live out our golden years on our schedule and spend our last years doing the things we love. But how do you mentally prepare for retirement?
Long-range goals like retirement have their drawbacks. A goal that is momentous and far in the future can seem hard to grasp fully. You may not know how to grasp your new reality as you get closer to retirement in a couple of years.
Enter mental preparation. It is a tool used by athletes (and others) to reduce stress levels, rehearse an event, visualize the best type of outcome, and increase positive self-talk. The same basic concept can be applied to people getting ready to retire; the amount of mental preparation you do will set you up for a successful retirement transition.
Whether you are 30 days or 20 years away from your last day of work, here are 25 tips on mentally and emotionally preparing for retirement.
Planning For Retirement
Planning is the biggest part of retirement that solely requires mental preparation. There are a lot of ways that you can use your noodle to get ready to retire. Here are five great ways to get started.
Discuss your plans with your spouse and family members: What would retirement look like? If you and your spouse or partner have different ideas, for instance, one of you wants to travel the world in an RV, and the other wants a beach house, you’ll need to work on a retirement compromise!
Just like everything in life, communication is critical here. The worst thing you can do is NOT talk about your plans until you are ready to retire. Start this conversation as early as possible so you are all on the same page.
Find your community: A great tool for mentally preparing for retirement is associating with like-minded people. You could start a “retirement club” where you meet monthly with people who are similarly ready for retirement.
Perhaps you could eat dinner and talk about goals or certain retirement topics. You could even make it a book club! Having a community to bounce ideas off of and learn from is a great way to get yourself in a good mindset to mentally prepare for retirement (and score future golf and spa buddies in the process!)
Don’t leave out friends and family.
Look At All Possibilities When Mentally Preparing For Retirement
Consider the big and small picture: Besides considering the more general topics of retirement, you also need to consider what you’ll want to do daily. Imagining a “day in the life” can help you make other retirement goals and plans.
Be realistic: One of the worst things you can do with retirement is to have a plan that is nowhere near the reality of your financial situation. You will be disappointed if you live paycheck-to-paycheck and imagine your retirement to include several luxurious vacation houses.
Just because your dream isn’t your reality doesn’t mean you have to be sad. The important thing is to capture elements of your dream retirement in smaller bits (maybe a few vacations a year to rent vacation homes?).
But also dream: Mentally preparing should include some beautiful dreams, though! Depending on the time before your retirement, it is okay to dream big and maybe tweak some things financially to get you closer to your lofty goals!
Think about how you’ll deal with setbacks: One important part of mental preparation is being prepared for scenarios that aren’t ideal. If you’ve thought through possible problems, you can better handle them emotionally if they become actualities.
What are your plans if your stocks take a nosedive? What will you do if social security runs out? Think through possible retirement roadblocks and their solutions. Enact anything that can help you weather a setback.
Looking At Financial Goals
Finances are one of the biggest factors when you mentally prepare for retirement. Going from earning a steady paycheck to living off your savings feels like a gigantic and terrifying leap of faith.
You can get more comfortable with the financial part of retirement by following these five tips to prepare you mentally for retirement.
Meet with a financial advisor or financial planner: They will help as a second set of eyes on your finances. He or she can help you with a realistic overview of your finances and how to reach your retirement goals and have enough money.
If you can meet with a financial coach earlier in your quest towards retirement, they can give you ideas on increasing your savings or debt payoff. Consider your long-term financial plan and give you a sense of financial security.
Check out the feasibility of different retirement options: Since you’ve already discussed your retirement plans, it is wise to determine how financially feasible they are *before* you retire so that you can pivot if necessary.
By keeping an open mind and thinking outside the box, you can consider several different retirement possibilities in real-time and find one that fits your future retirement budget. Some ideas include: downsizing to a tiny house, purchasing an RV, retiring abroad, having a primary residence and a secondary vacation residence you alternate between, renting out a room in your home, etc.
Other Goals For Retirement
Look at health insurance options: Did you know that once you turn 65, you are eligible for Medicare? Your plan might be premium-free if you’ve paid into Medicare through taxes long enough. However, many retirees choose supplemental Medicare coverage to address their healthcare needs. Talk to your insurance broker beforehand to understand what health insurance options you’ll be eligible for and their costs.
Reduce Expenses: One of the best things you can do to prepare for retirement is to reduce your expenses. Not only will reducing your expenses help you practice for when you need to live off less income, but it will also free up money to pay off debt or add to your savings RIGHT NOW.
Some simple ways to reduce your expenses include installing a smart thermostat, eating out less (cooking more at home!), switching insurance providers, cutting your cable bill and using streaming services, and borrowing books and movies from the library instead of purchasing them. A financial planner might be able to help in different ways than you might think of.
Do retirement “trial runs:” A trial run is a great way to practice living on your retirement income and saving money. If you have a general idea of how much money you will have available each month when you retire, use those numbers for a trial run twice a year. For that month, live off your lower retirement amount and then put the money you didn’t spend into savings. If a month is too long, do a week trial run. You’ll get practice and increase your savings at the same time. Win, Win!
This post may contain affiliates. Please see my disclosure for more information.
Declutter And Downsize Your Home
You can take action to make your retirement less stressful by eliminating excess stuff! Decluttering will help your current space be easier to keep clean AND can help you prepare to downsize. Here are five ways to mentally prepare yourself to simplify and live more intentionally.
Start the process mentally: There is no arguing that decluttering can be a very stressful process. Some people are emotionally attached to their things and have difficulty letting them go. You can help prepare yourself to declutter by reading the book, “Let It Go: Downsizing Your Way to a Richer, Happier Life.
Peter Walsh, one of the original decluttering geniuses, writes about downsizing his childhood home and dividing possessions among his family. You’ll better understand the emotional challenges of downsizing, learn when and if to save mementos and collectibles, and how to divide heirlooms without family drama.
Create a mood board on Pinterest of what your new space will look like: This is a fun activity that can help you feel more inspired to eliminate unnecessary things in your home. Create a Pinterest inspiration board and pin images that bring you joy. Pin-by-pin, you’ll realize what makes those spaces enticing and can keep only those things that will make your dream retirement home a reality.
Choose a decluttering strategy: There are many ways to attack your clutter. You can hire professional organizing help or go room-by-room and purge and organize.
The KonMari method suggests gathering all of the same category (i.e., craft supplies) in one space so you can see all you have. Sometimes we have several pockets of items throughout the house that we forget about. Once everything is in one place, you can easily see what you have and eliminate the excess.
Find a decluttering strategy that appeals to you and break the giant job of decluttering into smaller, easy-to-do pieces. Once you complete a room, you’ll see the value of living with less and be inspired to keep going.
Talk to your kids about taking bigger pieces you don’t want/need: If you plan to downsize, now is a great time to tell your kids what things you’ll be leaving behind. Then you can feel happy knowing your pieces are going to someone you love, and your kids can plan for getting the pieces.
Ask for help if needed: Don’t be afraid to help in this decluttering/downsizing. It is okay if it is hard for you to let things go! Don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, try progressing by throwing away things you aren’t sentimentally attached to until you build the courage to eliminate anything you don’t need or use.
Many would be willing to spend a few hours decluttering a space with you. Grab a treat, and then ask your spouse, friends, siblings, kids, parents, or even a professional.
Prepare Physically For Retirement
Have you ever thought about your physical readiness for retirement? If your retirement dream includes active pursuits or playing with your grandkids, now is a great time to think about ways to get physically ready to do those things. Here are five ways you can be physically ready for retirement.
Move your body daily: We all know we need to do it, but make it a high priority in the years leading up to retirement. You’ve been taking care of other people, now take care of yourself by exercising every day. Find something you enjoy doing!
Eat healthily: Increase your fruit and vegetable intake, decrease your sugar and simple carbohydrates, drink tons of water, and get your protein! These simple changes will give you more energy to pursue your retirement dreams.
Start taking supplements: Talk to your doctor about helpful supplements that will have you feeling your best when you retire. Some helpful options include brain and memory boosters, eye health, collagen, Vitamin D, and a daily multivitamin formulated especially for people over 65.
Give up bad habits: If you’ve had “quit smoking” on your New Year’s Resolution for years, retirement is an even better incentive to kick the habit! Think of all of the money you can save by giving up bad habits like smoking, drinking too much, and/or overeating. Then, consider how much more enjoyable your retirement will be if your health is optimized. You’ve got this!
Get surgeries/treatments done: If you’ve got a bad knee, hip, or shoulder, getting a replacement sooner rather than later can be beneficial. Not only could it potentially cost less with your current health insurance, but you’ll also be recovered and spry for your retirement years. Before retiring, you can also consider getting other elective surgeries or treatments like braces, Lasik eye surgery, or cosmetic surgery.
Prepare Emotionally For Retirement
One of the biggest mental hurdles (that is least addressed!) is preparing for the emotions of retirement. Keep in mind your mental health.
Let’s be completely raw here. Retirement is a huge transition. It is saying, “I am no longer attached to my career. I will not work to earn any money for the rest of my life. I have enough savings to pay for my expenses until I die.” Huge, right?!
A big part of successfully transitioning to retirement is preparing yourself mentally for the emotions you will feel. Knowing what to expect and planning things to offset your feelings of being displaced will be a cushion as you transition from one way of life to another. Here are five ways to emotionally prepare for retirement.
Read a book about retirement: There is a lot of helpful advice and insight you can gain from a book, especially about retiring. Try Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age or The Best Is Yet To Be: Discovering the Secret to a Creative, Happy Retirement
Think about opportunities to keep you active/involved: Many retirees feel restless when they go from a full schedule to an empty calendar. You now have a lot of free time after this major life change. Consider opportunities that can keep you active and involved with your family, friends, and community. Keep that social connection, and don’t isolate yourselves.
Some possible ideas could be: serving on a local community board, volunteering at your grandkids’ school, starting a quilting group, or even just designating one day a week where you help others. Don’t wait until you are bored and unsettled; think about what you want to do and start the wheels in motion now.
Don’t forget about social connections: Once you retire, you lose the ability to chat with people from work. Make an effort to stay connected and meet for lunch or coffee.
Consider These Ideas For Retirement Planning
Try out new hobbies: Along a similar line, now is a great time to think about (and possibly try) all the hobbies you never had time for. Sampling hobbies pre-retirement can help you narrow down the ones you want to pursue when you have much more available time. Bonus points if it is a hobby you can enjoy with your spouse or a friend!
See a therapist: If the thought of retiring is giving you anxiety or making you feel down, it is in your best interest to see a therapist or counselor as soon as possible. Even if your retirement isn’t in the near future, a therapist can help you identify what makes you nervous and work on coping with this monumental change in your life.
Volunteer work: find new ways to support your community with extra time. Volunteer at your local school or food pantry. It doesn’t need to be a full time job, just a few hours to get some social interaction and try new things.
Set fun goals: Finally, make sure you set fun goals or create a retirement bucket list that you can get excited about. Whenever you feel emotionally unsettled about the thought of retiring, you can look at your list and think about all the ways that retirement will be AMAZING.
Final Thoughts On How To Mentally Prepare For Retirement
A healthy and happy retirement is a dream that is within your reach. You can mentally prepare for retirement by planning, looking at your finances, decluttering/downsizing, and physically and mentally preparing.
If you start getting your brain in a healthy place for retirement, when you walk away from your desk for the last time, you will have envisioned all of the great possibilities of retirement and gotten yourself ready to experience all of the big emotions that come with it. With some financial planning and some emotional preparation, your retirement can be a fun and significant change to your life.
Get ready to leave your full-time work life, find a new sense of purpose, fully enjoy your retired life finding fulfillment.