selling the house, moving out of state, or relocating to a warm climate. Meanwhile, the other partner may be sentimentally attached to the family home, may be wary of leaving the current neighborhood, or—far from desiring tropical weather—may want to move closer to the grandchildren in Minneapolis or Buffalo. Thus, talking beforehand with your spouse about these potential areas of disagreement can go a long way toward avoiding future conflicts.
How will you spend your time? Figuring out what to do with the rest of your life will require some serious soul-searching. It’s also important to debunk some myths about what retirement represents.
“A lot of people are afraid of what their lives will be like,” says Jerry Kleiman, a clinical psychologist in Long Island, New York. “They associate retirement with diminished capacity, diminished usefulness in society, dependency, or being a step closer to death.”
Kleiman, who is also co-founder of Optimal Resolutions Inc., a consultancy that aids individuals and families with the emotional issues surrounding retirement, suggests that pre-retirees take a “life inventory.” This requires you to identify unfulfilled dreams or goals, examine the hobbies and activities that excite you most, and determine what you are passionate about, in terms of intellectual, physical, social, or spiritual pursuits.
Similarly, it’s also crucial to realize what you don’t want to do.
“I know some people who want to retire on a beach, and sit around and play cards all day. If I did that, I’d be dead within a year from boredom,” says Mark Wachs, a publicist in New York. Wachs, 60, has been meeting with his financial planner recently to prepare for his retirement—a period he views as “the next phase” in his life.
If your finances fall short of your expectations, can you cope with that reality? Many of us have grown up with grandiose images of what retirement will be like: freedom from the stresses of work, time to travel, carefree days spent playing golf, or even doing absolutely nothing at all. Unfortunately, these images are more fiction that fact. The average American is woefully unprepared for the financial challenges of life without a steady paycheck—and thus unprepared to deal with the emotional letdown that inevitably occurs when retirement dreams and goals aren’t realized.
One big shock for many people is that they probably won’t be retiring at all—at least not as soon as, or in the manner, they’d hoped. Ivan Geffen, an investment specialist at Vfinace Investments in Boca Raton, Florida, predicts a lot more retirees will continue to work part time. Others, he says, will be forced to adopt a less expensive lifestyle.
“With the stock market getting annihilated” between 2000 and 2002, “people’s original retirement plans may have to be postponed,” Geffen says.
By getting your debts under control now, you can avoid that postponed or “delayed” retirement scenario—and ease into your golden years with zero debt and maximum financial freedom.
BASIC STEP [NO. 3] FIND A WAY TO GENERATE ADDITIONAL INCOME
Anything you can do to generate other income can go a long way