Read Time: 4-minute article

Test-drive your retirement

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You wouldn’t buy a new car without taking it for a spin first, right? Probably not. And just like deciding if a vehicle is a good fit, this idea can be applied to your future as well. Many people jump into retirement — one of life’s biggest financial commitments, if not the biggest — without ever giving it a trial run.

There are several ways to do this and kick the tires before committing to the next big chapter in life. While you may not be able to afford to simply leave your job to practice retirement, you may be able to take advantage of your vacation days through work. If you’ve accumulated a few weeks’ worth and can take the time, this can help provide a sneak peek into retirement and give insight into how you would like to spend the years ahead. 

What’s the road to your best life?

During your mock retirement, try reducing discretionary expenses as much as possible to align with your potential retirement income. Spend your vacation weeks simulating how you imagine spending time — whether that includes cleaning the garage, going on day trips, entertaining the neighbors, enjoying your favorite hobby, volunteering or relaxing at home. Each night reflect on your experience and whether your lifestyle and activities line up with your financial plan and personal expectations.

Ask yourself:

  • Will your estimated income allow for a comfortable retirement? 
  • Could you live on reduced income?
  • Did you enjoy your time away from work or did you feel anxious to get back to the office? 
  • Does your current retirement timeline still make sense?
  • Are my spouse and I on the same page?

You may realize you’re on track financially, but wish to extend your retirement date to continue with your career. Or you may become even more excited to retire, but need to adjust your financial preparedness. Either way, test-driving your retirement can provide a real-life perspective and the opportunity to make adjustments to your expectations, goals and financial plan if needed. 

Are you ready to take retirement for a spin?

Use these suggestions to help you start your own test-drive:

  1. Imagine your future. A sound retirement strategy isn’t just dollars and cents. It’s also about finding what fuels your sense of purpose — perhaps spending time with family, helping others or an encore career. Are you ready to climb mountains instead of corporate ladders or do you have the travel bug?
     
    Hint:
    You may not have to wait until retiring to reach all of your dreams. Some may be best enjoyed sooner than later, such as traveling to destinations with extreme weather or terrain that could be too demanding when you’re older. If hiking Machu Picchu is on your bucket list, for example, consider taking advantage of the health you have now for that expedition and save the Caribbean cruise for when it may be easier as you age.
     
  2. Evaluate lifestyle and income. What does retiring to your best life mean to you — personally and financially? Generally, it’s suggested that 80 percent of pre-retirement income should sustain your lifestyle, but it also depends on how you want to live after you stop working. Weigh your wants, such as traveling, spending time with grandkids or volunteering, and your needs, including health care costs, food and housing costs.

    Now, factor in potential income sources such as Social Security, employer-sponsored retirement plans, annuities and personal savings. Your home may be your largest asset next to your retirement nest egg. Will you sell it and downsize? With an idea of your potential income and the lifestyle that fuels you, your financial professional can help you map out a plan so you can retire your way.
     
  3. Take a test-drive. Try living for a full month how you want to in retirement, within your anticipated budget. You’ll get a glimpse of what life could be like, what it’s like to be in control of your time or if your spending changes. And it may take less than a month to get a sense of where you stand. Review your list of what you learned each day and how you can better sculpt your life for your future self.
     
  4. Revise your plan. Look at what you learned about yourself, your partner and your retirement dreams during your test-drive. Did you spend more or less for travel, entertainment or home maintenance than expected? Maybe you want to live more simply than you imagined, or you may realize you need more money to retire to your best life.

Retirement isn’t the end of a job. It can be the beginning of the best work of your life. With a feel for what it may be like and a solid financial plan, you can be ready to make the next stage the best stage.

What do you want more of in retirement?

Take this quiz to help discover your personal path to happiness.

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Want the most from your retirement? Get smarter with Smart Strategies from Athene. Your source for tips, tools and financial solutions that can help you live your best life.