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Planning for retirement usually focuses on your financial readiness to leave work permanently, but ensuring you are emotionally prepared for this next life stage is just as important. That’s because, for many executives, work provides a sense of identity and worth, power, prestige, and responsibility — all of which can be very difficult to part with. Without planning for the emotional aspects of retirement, it can hit hard and not be the joy it should be.

If you are planning to retire in the next few years, the below tips will help you have an enjoyable retirement that best suits you:

  • First, rather than viewing retirement as stepping away from something of value, accept that you are also stepping towards something of value — your new life!  This can be just as good or better than your old life.  In fact, if you put as much effort into your retirement as you do your work, you have every reason to expect retirement to be happy and fulfilling.
  • Many people fear retirement because it seems so different from the life they know.  This can be easily addressed. Well before you retire, write down what retirement looks like to you.  Really think about it. Getting it down on paper will help you identify the realities and possibilities of this life stage and get you thinking about what you can do to ensure retirement is satisfying and good for you.
  • When thinking about retirement, it’s important to factor in your partner.  This may seem obvious, but many view retirement as just their own experience. Talk to your partner/spouse about your retirement. What do you plan to do together and separately?  Will your partner’s retirement coincide with yours? If not, how might that impact your plans?
  • As retirement approaches take steps to get as healthy and fit as you can because today you could be enjoying retirement for  30 years or more! As health challenges are more likely to emerge as you get older, consider dividing your retirement into stages and think about what you would be able to enjoy doing at each stage.
  • Retirement means that finally, you don’t have to live within commuting distance of work,  so take advantage of that freedom! Consider where you would like to live — by the ocean perhaps, or somewhere warm?  This can be a very exciting project. If possible, three or four years prior to retiring, take some time off as a sabbatical.  Explore places you might like to move to, or at least visit as a “snowbird” during the colder months, if winter sports are not your thing.
  • If you really do dread the idea of not working at all, serving on a Board of Directors can help you transition into retirement more easily.  However, don’t get sucked into something just because you’re asked. This is a rare opportunity to try something new or find a new passion. Consider the causes based on your values and interests.
  • Ease yourself into retirement by working part-time as a consultant. Working one to three days a week can soften the blow of leaving work completely, while still providing you the freedom to explore other activities outside of working life.  Use your network to explore possible opportunities as retirement approaches.
  • Retirement can be a time to focus on self-improvement and/ or finally do something you’ve always wanted to do.  Learn a foreign language or how to sail, take painting lessons, or learn to play a musical instrument. Why not write a book! The list of options is endless and many new endeavours will provide the kind of challenge and sense of achievement that you have come to relish during working life.

Remember, retirement doesn’t have to feel like you are falling into a big, black hole and that your busy life has to come to a screeching halt — quite the opposite!  It’s really up to you to take charge of your retirement. With proper planning, you can create a retirement that is very satisfying emotionally, and one that is filled with new experiences and new challenges.  At the end of the day, you can use retirement to create a whole new you — perhaps even the best you, yet!

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