How to Avoid Big Non-Financial Problems as a New Retiree
For many of us who are still working, retirement seems like the light at the end of the tunnel.
The closer you get to being a retiree, the harder it is to wait. If you’re like some people, you even have a bit of a bucket list waiting for you that is full of goals you’ve been putting off.
Unfortunately, many people find out that being a retiree is oddly harder than they thought.
Before you retire, make sure you consider the following common problems others have run into so these golden years can truly be the reward you’ve worked so hard for.
Lack of Social Interaction
It’s easy to forget how big a role work plays in our social lives. Over the years, you’ve probably become quite close to your coworkers, so much so that you begin viewing them more as friends than people who punch the same clock as yourself.
That’s why a lot of retirees become lonely once they move on. Even if you have a spouse, unless they’re also retired, it can be shocking to confront just how little you interact with others over the course of the day.
Those who don’t have spouses face a far more serious problem. Loneliness is detrimental to your health. You could literally die early simply because you don’t see and talk to people enough.
Fortunately, if you know how to use the Internet, this doesn’t have to be a problem. After all, ironically, you’re far from alone if you’re lonely. You can use sites like Facebook and Twitter to catch up with old friends or all kinds of other websites to find fun social get-togethers in your area.
Having Too Much Time
When you’re working 40 hours a week or more, it’s hard to imagine you’ll ever feel like you have way too much time. However, this is a constant problem for retirees. It’s a combination of having those 40 hours back and lacking the structure your career once provided.
All of a sudden, you’re in complete control. It’s almost like summer vacation when you were a kid and before you could get a job. Remember how, after three weeks or so, you sort of ran out of things to do? Maybe you just sat in front of the TV? This is actually how a lot of retirees end up too. They eat breakfast, park themselves in front of the television and wait for lunch.
Spend some of your surplus time finding new ways to spend it. Meeting new people or hanging out with friends is one. We’re going to cover some other ideas below. Just make sure this is a priority.
Missing Out on a Purpose
Another odd phenomenon you may have to confront as a retiree is that you seem to lack purpose. Again, this usually happens because you’re no longer working. Even if you weren’t doing something that seemed especially important, chances are it gave you a sense of purpose – something you attached a great deal of your own self-worth too. Now that you’ve retired – poof! – it’s gone. Sadly, your sense of self-worth probably left with it.
Steward Friedman, practice professor of management at Wharton and founding director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project has a great line about this:
“The questions people ask at earlier stages of life become more profound at these later stages.”
When you were young, you probably thought a lot more about what your purpose was – what you were put here on this planet to do. Now that you’ve retired, those questions come back, and they’re louder and more demanding than ever.
The simple – though not necessarily easy – solution to this problem is that you need to create that purpose. It’s probably a safe assumption that you’ve built up at least one unique talent over the years. Maybe you’re a great accountant. Perhaps you’re a noted people-person.
Whatever the case, now that you’re a retiree and probably don’t need a steady paycheck, you can use your time to work for free as a volunteer and leverage what you do so well to help others.
You don’t even need your special talent for this. Simply handing out meals at a homeless shelter or doing labor for a group like Habitat for Humanity are both great ways to help others and give yourself a purpose. Before long, you’ll be jumping out of bed with more vigor than ever because you know people are relying on you.
Volunteering is just one option, though. Now might be the time to start the business of your dreams too. As your own boss, you can work when you like and, as a retiree, you don’t have to worry as much about your income. Working at a job you absolutely love may be one of the best forms of retirement.
You’re a Retiree without Enough Money
None of the problems above are especially attractive, but the worst may be simply that you have retired, but don’t have enough money to live comfortably or live that way for long.
The good news is that there are ways to increase your retirement funds even as a retiree. So if you find yourself in this situation, don’t give up hope. Plenty of people have been in your shoes and made it back to a better financial place.
Obviously, one way to do this, which we just covered, is simply going back to work, albeit doing something you truly love and, ideally, where you’re your own boss.
That being said, it’s best to avoid this problem altogether. Long before you become a retiree, I recommend you invest in bonds. If you’re younger, I’m okay with including some stocks for the sake of capital growth, but the older you get, the more you want to shore up your exposure to risk and bonds are my favorite way of doing so.
Taking your retirement seriously means planning ahead to ensure you have enough money. It also means you put some time into thinking about how you’re going to spend it so that you get the most out of time you’ve worked so hard for.