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Transitioning Into Retirement Can Be Hard. It Doesn’t Have to Be.

Key Takeaways

  • Get your financial, family, social, and health game plans together.
  • Decide whether you want to phase into retirement rather than stop working cold turkey.
  • Allow your financial mindset to shift from saving to spending.

By Stephen Sellner | Citizens Bank Staff

For decades, you’ve focused so much attention on having the means to retire. Now, you’re standing at the doorstep of this incredible milestone. It should be pretty smooth sailing from here on out, right?

Not for everyone. Transitioning into retirement can be difficult. Of recent retirees, only 72% said life in retirement was better than or the same as it was before it. For some, retirement takes some getting used to.

So what can you do to better prepare yourself for the new normal of retirement? How can you ensure a soft landing into the next phase of your life?

Get all your game plans together

Contrary to what you might think, there’s more to a satisfying retirement than having enough money, though that’s certainly important. Here are four things you need to square away in your life to prepare yourself to retire:

  1. A financial game plan: You didn’t expect this to go away entirely, did you? Have a plan in place for how you’ll stretch your assets to last throughout retirement, to cover both basic needs and your goals.
  2. A family game plan: Your relationship with your spouse or significant other is perhaps the biggest key to retirement bliss. A married retiree who has a poor relationship with their spouse would need to increase their spending on leisure activities by 43% to stay happy. Translation: A happy marriage is worth its weight in gold.
  3. A social game plan: How will you stay connected to others? Your social interactions are going to decrease now that you’re not going into the office as often or at all. Don’t let that lead to boredom!
  4. A health game plan: How are you going to stay healthy in retirement? Have a plan for how you’ll diet, exercise, and stay mentally sharp. Do you expect to need long-term care? What health complications has your family had in the past that could become your reality later on?

A happy marriage is a staple of a satisfying retirement.

Shift your financial mentality

For years, you’ve stressed over saving, saving, and saving some more, all so you could retire one day. How, all of a sudden, do you allow yourself to spend now that retirement is here?

This inherent mindset shift is a struggle for lots of retirees, not just the recent ones. This happens for a few reasons:

  1. Fear of outliving your money
  2. Failure to plan for how you’ll withdraw
  3. Having a plan, but lacking confidence in it

As a result, some retirees look at their retirement assets and want to preserve those funds rather than withdraw and spend them. That’s right — some view withdrawing the retirement assets they spent most of their life accumulating as nothing more than an emergency fund, only to be used when the unexpected occurs. Therefore, they use Social Security and pension plan (if they have one) checks as money for spending.

Are you nervous you’ll be this risk averse with your retirement assets? If so, working with a financial advisor to come up with a withdrawal plan could give you the confidence to allow yourself to draw against your funds. Or, you could consider purchasing an annuity to have guaranteed streams of income in retirement. That way you know that you’ll have paychecks for life and not feel as guilty about spending that money. You’d also want to talk to an advisor to learn more about annuities to see if they’re the right option for you.

The point is, you spent many hardworking years of your life setting aside money away for your retirement. Have a good plan in place so you can reap the benefits of all those sacrifices you made.

Having a withdrawal plan – and following it – could you give more confidence to use your retirement assets rather than preserve them.

Which work transition makes sense for you?

Since retirement is such an adjustment, make sure you think about how you intend to retire. An increasing number of people are phasing into retirement as opposed to cutting out work cold turkey. That way, they still connect to a purpose and don’t undergo as much of a schedule shock when they’re suddenly faced with unscheduled hours to fill.

Retirees can do this a number of ways, including:

  1. Remaining at their job or company on a part-time basis,
  2. Getting a new part-time job,
  3. Going into consulting in their industry, or
  4. Volunteering

Phased retirement allows you to “test drive” retirement to see how you like it. Then, you can gradually cut back on these time commitments as you become more comfortable with your new lifestyle.

Still, maybe you’ve got a list of goals mapped out, and remaining at work — even part-time — would get in the way of how you want to live. Just remember that once you leave the workforce, it can be very difficult to get back in, so if you’re unsure how you’ll adjust to retirement, take the phased approach to test the waters.

What to remember

Retirement takes some getting used to, but there are steps you can take to make it as smooth a transition as possible. Make sure you have your finances and also your relationships in order. Then, decide whether a phased retirement would make it easier to adjust to your new way of life rather than jumping in with both feet.

And lastly, have a plan that allows you to guiltlessly spend your retirement assets on what they were intended for — retirement! You spent many hardworking years of your life setting aside money for it; allow yourself to reap the benefits.

More information

A Financial Advisor at Citizens Bank Wealth Management can help you develop a personalized transition plan for retirement, whether it’s coming up with a decumulation plan or coaching you through some of your lifestyle changes. That way, you can proceed into the future with confidence.

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