Take stock of your situation by answering these three simple questions.
Posted June 11, 2009
Are you among the almost 76 million Boomers approaching retirement?
Are you wondering how to ensure a successful retirement or wondering if you should retire? Before making this transition, be sure you can say "yes" to these three questions: Do I have enough? Have I had enough? Do I have enough to do?
Do you have enough?
From the many books, articles, surveys, and TV and radio reports, there is no doubt this is a question on most peoples' minds. With the possibility of spending 30 or more years in retirement, it's imperative that your money lasts as long as you do. More to the point, you need enough money to support the lifestyle you'd like to live. Some experts say you only need 60 to 80 percent of your current income to retire, since it costs money to make money—workers pay for transportation, a work wardrobe, meals, plus they pay Social Security taxes and invest in retirement funds. Many retirees have put their kids through college, and plan to downsize their homes. Other experts, however, suggest you may need 100 percent or more of your current income (especially when you first retire), if you still have kids in school, have parents who rely on you for some financial support, have to pay larger share of your health insurance, plan on traveling or pursuing new interests, or want to relocate to a more expensive resort-style setting. And, don't forget the newest statistic that came out recently from Fidelity Investments—a 65 year-old couple retiring in 2008 will need close to $225,000 just to cover medical expenses. The real answer to "How much do you need?" is that you can't rely on anyone's rule of thumb; you need to make your own judgments after considering your own retirement plan.
Have you had enough?
When surveyed, the number 1 response when asked "Why do you want to retire?" is "to do other things." But, what if you're already living your passion? Then you should continue to work for as long as you can (assuming if you have a significant other that it is it okay with him/her). Let's face it—for many of us, working provides rewards and satisfaction such as status, intellectual engagement, social interaction, purpose, feelings of pride and accomplishment, structure, and, of course, a paycheck and perhaps health coverage. In the United States, success tends to be defined in monetary terms, but separating success and productivity from paid employment will create many more options for making retirement a time of new and meaningful roles. It's important that you will be retiring to something and not from something.
Do you have enough to do?
Okay, so you have enough money and you're ready to set off in new directions. Now the question is: how will you mindfully fill 168 hours a week? There are many options, but reflect on what is important to you. Activities that are challenging and provide a sense of self-worth are one of the keys to a happy retirement. Yes, you can play golf and watch television, but is that enough? What types of hobbies are out there? How about lifelong learning? Should you start a second (or third or fourth) career? Think about the things you did when you were younger that you enjoyed, but didn't have time to pursue—singing in a choir, taking karate, tutoring, performing in your school play, playing tennis, biking, and attending classes. And, consider volunteering. As Winston Churchill said, "We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give." Skill-based volunteering is the new mantra—using educated and business-savvy volunteers to help with projects and strategic planning, and leave the "envelope stuffing" to lower-level paid staff.
If you can answer these three questions in the affirmative, you are ready to launch a happy and successful retirement!
Jan Cullinane is the co-author (along with Cathy Fitzgerald) of the best-selling book, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale). She has appeared on TV both nationally and locally, has conducted more than 60 radio, Internet, and television interviews, and has written or been interviewed for numerous newspaper and magazine articles. Jan has a B.S. and M.Ed. from the University of Maryland. Her website is TheNewRetirement.net.