Most of the articles you read on FedSmith.com are about the financial side of retirement. For example, you might learn about Thrift Plan rates of return, tax implications for retirees, Social Security earnings limits or CSRS versus FERS survivor benefits. This time we are going to take a quick look at the non-financial side of your retirement.
Actuaries tell us that a 55 year old can expect to live another 30 years. Coincidental perhaps, but if you are a full career federal employee in the CSRS retirement system, you are able to retire at 55 years of age with 30 years of service. Think about it – you are likely to live as long after you retire, as you worked for Uncle Sam prior to your retirement. Look back to where you were 30 years ago and consider all the changes you went through during those years. Then look ahead another 30 years – do you have any idea where you will be then?
The plans you have now for retirement may be colored by your view of retirement as retiring from something (i.e., work). It is healthier to think of your retirement as retiring to something. Looking forward in anticipation is better than looking backward in relief.
Right now you may anticipate spending all your time in hobbies you have neglected during your working career. Early in retirement planning, retirement is like a dream to us. It is a good dream (we hope), a dream that may have us fishing, travelling or making something in our workshops.
Well before we retire, we should give our dreams a reality test in order to see how well they will translate into actual retirement. Here are some suggestions:
- Talk to people who have retired before you. You are not the first, nor will you be the last, person to retire. Find out what issues others faced as they made their adjustments from work to retirement.
- Will you be able to fill in 50 or more hours of time each week without getting bored? That is about how much time (including your commute) as was spent working when you were employed by Uncle.
- Consider your options. They may be:
- Part-time work
- Volunteer activities
- Returning to school
- Taking up another occupation altogether
One thing that can get in our way when we plan our life after retirement is that often there are other, more immediate, needs facing us. We are inclined to focus on these short-term needs and put the long-term view aside. We must do our best to resist this natural tendency when we are planning our retirement life. Consider the following:
- Develop an action plan for retirement. Include long, mid and short-term targets in the plan.
- Don’t plan by yourself. Share your concerns with others who are close to you and include them in the planning process.
- Test your plans if you can.
- If you are planning another career, volunteer in that field and see how you like it.
- If you are planning on relocating, rent a place in that area and see if it is as good as you imagined.
Richard Bolles, the author of What Color is Your Parachute?, recently a new book entitled What Color is Your Parachute for Retirement? The book can be a great help for those of us who are still defining what our retirement life will look like.
Don’t base your decision to retire on whether or not you are eligible and can afford to. Look closely at your interests and goals for a happier and more satisfying retirement.