How to Prepare for Your First Year in Retirement

You probably anticipated your retirement for many years before you left your job.  Perhaps you entertained some general ideas about what your life would look like once the big day came to pass.  Or you assumed the good life will just spontaneously begin the day you exi the office for the last time.

It sounds like bliss when you think about no more alarm clock, rush-hour traffic or weekends jam-packed with errands and chores you didn’t have time to do during the week.

It’ll be great, like taking a vacation for the rest of your life.

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However, the first year of retirement is often the most difficult.  You’ve been working for 30 plus years and receiving a regular paycheque.  Now you have to fill your unscheduled days and likely manage on much less income than you’re used to getting.  You’re excited, but maybe also a little bit scared.

The Honeymoon period

“How nice it is to do nothing all day and then rest afterward.” 

Spanish proverb

Initially, retirement can seem like a permanent vacation.  It’s reasonable to allow yourself some time to chill and decompress.  You’ve earned it. You’ll enjoy your retirement honeymoon.  It feels great to sleep in, stay in your jammies till noon and sip your coffee on the patio while reading the newspaper front to back.

You’ll bask in all that newfound free time to purge through long-neglected closets and do all those nagging repairs you could never get around to  You schedule lunches at trendy new restaurants and babysitting dates with your beloved grandchildren. 

There’re classes to sign up for and finally tak that long-awaited European river cruise.

How can that not be a great way to live?

It’s fine for a few months.  But, honeymoons don’t last forever.  Once these activities become routine you start becoming bored and restless.  If you’re a couple, you might find yourselves getting on each others very last nerve.  Sooner or later you need to settle into your new life.

How long does it take to adjust?

The first year of retirement is often a period of significant adjustment. 

You’ll be encouraged by friends, family, and associates to “get involved”, to “do something.”

Are you doing what you dreamed of doing?  Some people jump right into endless lists of interests, hobbies, and sports they’ve been looking forward to participating in during their working years and love to be able to spend more time on what makes them happy.

Many retirees find they follow their initial plan only loosely.  They might have looked forward to doing an activity but find it leaves them cold when they try it out.  Or they have the idea of pursuing something and then some better opportunities come along.

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They find themselves trying a little bit of this and a bit of that in order to find their “true” retired self and may do things they never thought they’d do.  After all you’re not the same person that started working 30 or40 years ago.  It takes a while to figure things out and you’ll make some mistakes.

Spend this time discovering your talents.  Concentrate on things you enjoy doing, even if you don’t do them well.  You’ll sort out the activities you want to do on your own and those you want to do with your spouse or together.

Devote some thought to how you want your days to look after you retire and to what extent you want to be driven by a schedule. Allowing yourself some spontaneity is one of the pleasures of retired life, but don’t expect to live with no plan at all. If you get up each day with no idea what you’ll do that day, you’ll resort to meaningless activities or sitting in front of the computer or the TV all day.

Build a new network of friends

Giving up your job also means giving up part of your social circle.  But staying in touch with the old gang keeps you still tethered to your workplace.  Often it’s just the job itself that kept your conversation going.  Once you retire you may not have anything to talk about anymore.  Keep the real friends and let the rest go.

You may have to take a bit of initiative to maintain an active social life where you’ll spend more time with others who are of a similar age and doing the same types of activities.

Get a better understanding of your income needs

For most people, retirement means living on a reduced income.  Your spending habits will also change.  You might be spending more during this stage. Once you have more leisure time it becomes tempting to spend on dining out, hobbies and recreation. 

You will be able to compare your previous projections with real-life experience as you settle into your preferred lifestyle and adjust your budget accordingly.  It will be a good benchmark for how your savings will carry you through your retirement.  You’ll be a lot more confident about your financial future.

Don’t make any significant changes at this time

What you thought you wanted to do in retirement may very well change.  Don’t be quick to sell your home or move to a completely different location.  You might realize that you would have preferred a different option if you would have taken more time to think things through, or tried them out first before acting. 

Think about how your needs might change and take that into account.

The bottom line

When you buy a new set of tires most tire shops will tell you that they will rebalance those tires in 30 days or so at no charge to help you get the optimum life from your purchase.

Entering retirement may be the time when you experience more changes happening simultaneously than at any other time during your life. Your daily routine, your physical surroundings, the people in your life, your relationship with your spouse and your spending habits are all likely to change in more ways than you expect and it can be stressful.

The first year is a time of transition where you’re working out the kinks and finding out what works for you both financially and recreationally.  It’s an opportunity for you to discover yourself and create a lifestyle compatible with who you really are. 

People make all kinds of great plans for the first year or so, but they don’t have a long-term retirement vision. 

You need to reevaluate and refine often.

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