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No matter what you have planned for the next big chapter of your life, how you choose to spend it is up to you. And with the right preparation, you can finally focus on doing more of what you never had time for during your working years.
“For many people, retirement isn’t about never working again and playing golf but rather about reconnecting with a passion they put on pause or didn’t pursue as often as they liked when their head was down during their career years,” says Seth Streeter, CEO and co-founder of Mission Wealth Management in Santa Barbara, California, in an interview with Athene.
More … quality of life
Thinking about how you want to spend your time in retirement is one factor. Your health may also affect when and where you want to spend the next stage of your life. For example, consider a couple who has enjoyed dozens of colorful Northeast autumns and snowy winters.
Always planning to leave their snow boots behind to retire in Florida for year-round warm temperatures, a harsh winter and a fall on the ice left one partner with a chronic back issue. To help prevent future injuries that could interfere with living their best life, they decide to make their health a priority and act on their retirement plans early.
Since warmer climates may be better for some people’s health as they get older, it’s natural to consider retiring where’s it’s mostly sunny. But there’s more to consider than simply choosing your favorite hot spot on the map. Retiring in a warmer climate may mean relocation and with that comes preparing to move. One strategy that may help you take that step is downsizing before you’re ready to retire — for example, selling the four-bedroom family home in exchange for a smaller home or condo a few years before you leave the workforce. If it’s financially possible and makes sense, you may even consider purchasing a small home or condo where you want to retire. Not only can it help you adjust to what downsizing will feel like, you may be able to rent your future retirement home and potentially pay it off with rental income you earn during the years leading up to your move.
Future health care needs can be an important consideration when striving for more quality of life. Choosing a retirement city close to top-notch health care may give you the access to help stay healthy in the future. “Climate may be important to you, but it’s also crucial to look at other factors essential to longevity and vitality, especially the location and convenience of certain hospitals, specialists and other services critical to your health,” suggests Streeter.
He also encourages soon-to-be retirees to look hard at their current lifestyle and trade bad habits — which could exacerbate health concerns — for smarter, healthier ones. “It’s the choices you make today that ultimately decide the quality of life you’ll have tomorrow,” he explains. Besides dropping a few bad habits, you may also save a few bucks that can help make your money go farther after you stop working.
More … free time
For some people, it’s less about waiting to retire to enjoy leisure time and more about enjoying it in the present without sacrificing their long-term financial goals. That was the scenario for one of Streeter’s clients, a former corporate attorney in his mid-50s who wanted to build memories with his family while everyone was healthy and living at home.
“At the time, he had a five-year goal to retire from a job he didn’t like — one that had him working through the weekends and made traveling with his family for fun impossible,” says Streeter. “So I asked him what he was passionate about, and his wife immediately told me how much he loved history. That’s when I posed the idea of changing careers and becoming a high school history teacher in three years.”
His client was happier than ever teaching. Even though retiring had been delayed by a few years, he felt more energized, less stressed and excited to spend summers off with his family.
Before changing careers, Streeter’s client began hunkering down erasing debt, curbing his family’s spending habits and building a 12-month emergency fund in order to help prepare for what to expect later on. “Living simply, having some bunker cash that will be there to pay the bills and keeping your debt management intact all help remove any anchors that could be keeping you tethered to a job that’s not best for your immediate or long-term goals,” says Streeter.
More … sense of purpose
Another client of Streeter’s found himself without a true sense of purpose after getting divorced and having his three daughters grow up and leave home. No longer in the role of husband and without kids at home, he had an opportunity to refocus his priorities. At the top of his list was giving his time and money to charitable causes he cared about.
Before jumping in, start by mapping out how much discretionary money you actually have to give. “Being charitable is rewarding, but it should never come at the expense of causing you to run out of funds for yourself one day,” says Streeter. Once you know how much you can give, write down the charities you want to support — your alma mater, church or certain nonprofits in your community, for example. Then create a giving budget that’s as tax-advantaged and sustainable as possible.
Giving back by volunteering the skills you’ve acquired throughout your lifetime can be just as effective as donating money. “There are many ways you can support a cause, and your time and talents are just as valuable when it comes to making a difference,” he says.
For many, retirement isn’t the end of a job. It’s the beginning of the best work of their lives with time to enjoy more of what gives them purpose. No matter what your more may be, having the right plan in place can help you retire to your best life.
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