How to Ease Into Retirement: 6 Steps You Can Take

Here is an article I wrote for  eRetirement web site  last year. It may be helpful to you if you are anticipating retirement but are unsure if you are ready.

Today's post was contributed by Bob Lowry, the author of the popular blog, "A Satisfying Retirement”.

Retirement is a major lifestyle transition for most of us. The familiar routines of work and a daily schedule are gone. They are replaced with more than a little uncertainty and unease. We try to anticipate financial and personal issues that might lie ahead, but are aware things probably will not go as planned.

As regular readers of Satisfying Retirement blog know, the transition to full time retirement can be tricky. I have written about discovering what you want to do with your free time before you find yourself on the couch in front of the TV. There have been lively discussions about setting up a budget before your regular checks stop so you have a feel for what life will be like when you must make do with what you have invested and saved. Moving or staying put is one of the most important decisions that I revisit from time to time. Figuring out how to live with your spouse or partner all day, every day, is often tougher than it seems.

Would it be helpful if you could ease into retirement? Usually it happens suddenly. One day you are employed and the next day you are not. The planning you did leading up to that important transition helped ease some of the anxiety. Still, there is an abruptness that can be unsettling.

Actually, there is another way. It is possible for many of us to ease into retirement, or prepare ourselves for what is to come. Here are a few ideas to consider.

1) The next time you have a long weekend off from work, spend the time at home instead of rushing off the mountains or ocean. Don't start a big project. Try to make time slow down by throwing away your normal schedule and to-do list. Experience what three full days without an agenda feels like. Set aside time to talk with your partner about what you two want when retirement comes. Don't assume you both want the same thing. If you are single, how does being with just yourself feel for 72 hours?

Use this time away from work to try out a schedule you control. Does the lack of a list or being productive every minute leave you feeling a bit uneasy? That is a good sign you aren't quite ready to cut the cord.

2) Devise a budget based on what you think your retirement income and outgo might be. Live off that budget as closely as possible for 2 months. How did you feel...deprived and stressed or somewhat liberated? What if you had to live that way full time?

3) Make a list of those passions and hobbies you haven't engaged in due to lack of time. Pick the top two and force yourself to make the time to dabble in them to see if the interest is still strong. If not, you should find something that keeps you energetic and engaged before tapering down from work.

4) Have a health checkup or honestly assess yourself. Retirement is not nearly as much fun if you are not feeling your best. Take the steps now to get yourself stronger and feeling better. Retirement puts some pressure on you. Be sure you can handle it.

5) If you can afford it, go somewhere for a vacation that allows you to really disconnect from the planning and pressures of your daily life. I find RV trips or cruises allow me to fully relax and simply enjoy life. Those days away from home remind me of the incredible blessing that retirement can be...if I let it.

6) If your employee or situation allows, ask to work part time for a period of time, or even take a sabbatical. This is the closest you can come to the financial and emotional reality off not working. How do you feel during this “test?” Are you anxious to get back to your full time schedule? Do you chafe at the financial limitations? Or, are you invigorated and loving the freedom?

While none of these ideas replicates the actual feeling of being retired, each gives you a piece of the puzzle. If you can, “practicing” retirement is a tremendous step toward a successful transition.

Thanks to eretirement for the opportunity to submit this piece.