I know quite a few people who are approaching retirement right now. And from talking to them, one thing is clear to me: There's a lot of apprehension about making this transition.
The pressure to make the right decisions doesn't stop just because you're nearing retirement. In fact, from what I can tell, it seems to intensify. There are still a lot of important decisions to make: When should I stop working? How will I spend my day? Where should I retire? What lifestyle changes do I need to make?
There's a lot of advice to take in as well. And with that advice, you need a way to sort through it all and find out what makes the best sense for your situation.
Why practice helps
This could just be my experience, but the one thing that helps me get comfortable with change is practice.
My husband and I are avid bicyclists; but when he suggests a new route, I get the heebie-jeebies. Why? It's because I know I'm likely to face uncomfortable — even scary — situations like a truck that passes too closely or a hill that suddenly becomes quite steep.
Instead of opting out, I find a way to tackle my fears. If I can, I drive the route just to experience the terrain. I may break the route down and attempt only a portion of it so I can get comfortable with the differences.
Also, I don't look at it as a one-time event. I start making plans to ride the route over and over again. I become more comfortable and confident each time I try.
Areas to practice
Several aspects of retirement pose difficulty to prospective retirees — finances, housing, activities, health, and transportation. But experiencing the terrain in small bits may help them feel more confident about their options.
For example, they could calculate the amount of money they expect to have in retirement and start to live on those funds for a month or two. Practicing how to live on a reduced income a year ahead of time (or even five or 10 years before retirement) would give them the opportunity to practice in a controlled environment. They may find they need to increase their savings account to cover emergencies as a result.
The same is true for the other areas that are affected by retirement. Some people don't have the foggiest clue about when or where they want to retire. And it's especially difficult to estimate future healthcare needs. But each of these factors can be modeled on paper or experienced in real life.
A couple that wants to live in the Rockies, for instance, would be wise to rent a home or cabin to know whether they can handle the demands of a different climate. Someone who wants to take up golf in retirement might want to practice their swing to see if it's something they can physically do. It's all a matter of trying different things.
Practice makes perfect
A meaningful and successful retirement reflects the detail of good planning. Having confidence to make the transition may be a reflection of how big the change is from full-time employment to full-time enjoyment.
How far away is retirement for you? Do you practice retiring? What other major life changes do you practice, and how do you do it?