Although we look forward to retirement throughout our careers, entering it is an unfamiliar experience, one that will be especially challenging for anyone not fully prepared for it. Our primary focus when deciding if we’re ready to retire is typically financial security; however, retirement affects all areas of our lives, including familial, social, and emotional stability.

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Too much of a good thing often turns it into a bad thing, and the unstructured or free time that comes with retirement can fall into that category. Throughout our lives, most of us are given a structure to follow that manages most of our time, first from our parents, then our educators, then our employers. Even our entertainment choices are presented in a structured cycle so we don’t need to find the next thing to do – some data suggests that over 80% of user selections on Netflix comes out of what the service recommends to watch next!

What we need to be doing is running on auto-pilot in the background, and coming up with what to do next isn’t as easy as it sounds. Once retired, we switch to the always active model of what we want to be doing, and figuring that out daily can be draining for us and those around us. The first idea is easy to find. The second idea is harder. The third harder still. Eventually we all face a “what’s next” moment.

You finally get to be in charge of all your time, and that’s a leadership position. Making the most of your retirement means taking that leadership role just as seriously as you would in a career, and following some of the same basic tenets:

A good leader understands the mission statement of his enterprise, and can express it to others.

What is your goal during retirement? Is it to become closer with your family and grandchildren? Is it to volunteer at a local charity? To cross everything off your bucket list? Write a novel? Maybe creating a side-hustle with one of your children, or share experience through consulting? Perhaps it’s to become a world class musician, and then go on America’s Got Talent and show off your new skill to the world. Retirement may mean exiting the workforce, but it doesn’t mean you stop creating and providing value. You have immense value, and can keep creating and sharing it.

A good leader knows what steps are needed to achieve his or her goal.

 As we age, steady habits are harder to form, yet they are more helpful than ever to ensure our time is being well spent. Establishing a new routine doesn’t mean that every minute of the day needs to be planned out. There is no need to try to do everything on one’s bucket list the first year one retires – but you could try to cross one off each month (it’s even better if you try to add one every time you cross one off). If part of your retirement goals are to stay healthy and mobile, consider adding a daily walk into your routine.

A good leader communicates well, and supports their team.

When looking for “what’s next” we generally turn to friends and family, but everyone doesn’t retire at the same time. The time you need to fill with activities might be the same time when family and friends are still at their day jobs. Most couples rely on each other for shared activities, but because of work obligations don’t spend the majority of their time together unless they are vacationing. As we’ve learned from shuttering at home throughout the last year in close quarters, minor annoyances can become major issues, which might account for the rise of “gray divorces” shortly after retirement of one spouse.

As you plan your retirement, understand that you and your spouse may need to make many adjustments. You’ve always been creating a life together, but it also involved a lot of time apart, and now suddenly that time apart will be gone.  A good starting point may be to come up with 50 things you wish to do in retirement, and three habits that are positive usages of your time such as golfing, painting, or fishing (eating doesn’t count). Realize that they don’t all have to be done together before sharing them, and figure how much time they take so time apart can be coordinated in activities instead. This alleviates some of the tension of feeling left out, and the pressure of needing to provide attention to a shared activity at all times.

A good leader takes initiative in creating and coordinating plans.

Waiting around to be asked to the dance might mean never going to the dance. Getting turned down once, twice, or thrice doesn’t mean that you’ll be turned down the next time you ask. If you have a goal to spend more time with your family, suggest activities. They can be regular, or irregular, small and large. From planning a big Disney World trip, to babysitting once a week, you can increase the impact you have in their lives and get to know them even better. Take initiative, but don’t get disheartened if they don’t have time right when you ask. If you start a monthly email update, you might not get replies right away, but it could build into a regular communication eventually.

Good leaders reassesses their progress.

If your plans aren’t coming to fruition, or you find yourself feeling anxious or depressed, take a step back and reassess. Ask yourself what your purpose in retirement is, and try to define some steps to achieve it. You can always change course, or try something new, and communicate what you’re doing and trying with loved ones to see how you can support each other.

Creating our golden years ourselves.

Retirement is a major change, not just in terms of how we need to manage our finances. It represents the opportunity created through a lifetime of labor, and the challenge of making it extraordinary is up to each individual. It is truly the beginning of something grand.

If you’re one of the millions facing the decision of whether or not to retire this year, Arvest Wealth Management can help you understand whether you’re financially secure enough to support the retirement you are aiming for. We can take care of the financial and income management during retirement too, so you can focus your time creating value and enjoyment for yourself and your family.



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