Focus on and take control of your retirementIt sounds weird, I know. Why do you need help with “handling” the one thing most people have dreamed about all their working lives?

It’s been a long road in life, and you have worked every day to get there. The time, effort and money spent on furthering your career has brought you, for better or worse, to this moment: retirement. For most, this comes at a late stage of life where the stresses and demands of everyday life have diminished and led to the aches and pains of aging; maybe some medical issues that need to be seen to once in awhile; and the growing realization that you are about to have a whole lot of time on your hands. What exactly are you supposed to do?

Case in point: my grandparents. My grandparents both worked at Packard Motor Car Company in a small town called Warren, Ohio most of their lives. When they both were around 50, they retired. By today’s standards, this was quite an early age.

Fast forward to today and you’ll see that my grandparents have now been retired for seven years. My grandfather has started a small (and informal) painting business and my grandmother usually finds things to do here and there to keep her busy. Both can agree that the no-work-or-set-schedule adjustment, even this far along, hasn’t been easy.

What steps can soon-to-be former workers take to ensure a smooth transition into retirement?

Travel, travel, travel. Assuming you have a good retirement fund set up and have no dependents living with you, travel is often the first thing people do when they finally hit retirement age. Planning “kick off” vacation before your retirement can be a fun side project to those last few months on the job; the months where your employer will surely be easing you away from the important projects knowing you are about to leave. If it’s time the company will give you, use it wisely and plan a spectacular trip to give yourself a reward. Make sure to go through a reputable travel agent and get all the fixings you can to make it as memorable a reward as working 50+ years should provide.

If you don’t have a large retirement fund set up, or none at all, there are still options for you. Try to save up enough to go on a smaller trip, even if it’s only an hour away, for a couple days. Get out of your house and go somewhere relaxing. The beach, the woods, your old hometown, somewhere you feel comfortable and can spend a week in a mid-sized hotel not worrying about things. If you are still married, try to take a romantic getaway, maybe even a second honeymoon. Any small trip will clear your mind and silence the nagging fear of time on your hands.

Take up a hobby before you retire. Find something you are interested in that is monetarily feasible and start delving into it before you actually retire. This will give you a task to shift your focus; one where you already have accomplished something when the time comes. Choosing something at random after retirement usually leads to time and money spent on a hobby that fizzles out a few weeks later. Instead, find something you like before you hit retirement and when you finally have all that time, jump in headfirst. This will keep your mind active and encourage you to look forward to your retirement rather than fearing it.

Prepare for family. Now that you are unburdened by work, enjoy seeing family, especially distant family who you haven’t visited in some time. Maybe add a pet into your life to liven things up a bit. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid; life doesn’t end with retirement, just work.

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