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Senior Correspondent

Easing into Retirement: Steps to Try

Easing into Retirement: Steps to Try

As I go through the responses to the questions for my new book I am impressed with the amount of thought and planning folks are putting into building their satisfying retirement. Of course, there are those who due to circumstances or personality are on the "what will be will be" side of the scale. But, the majority are trying to anticipate both financial and personal issues that lie ahead.

A few of the pre-retirees, those still a few years away from full retirement, are deciding to ease into retirement. Either they have moved from full time to part time employment, taken a job that allows for more flexible hours, or become involved in telecommuting so they can become accustomed to being home several days a week.

A story on Money Magazine's website from earlier this year detailed some of the same approaches. As these people age they look for ways to reduce their working hours while learning how to be retired. Unable or unwilling to stop all work, these folks have creatively found ways to downshift their schedule.

As regular readers of Satisfying Retirement blog know, a 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, everyday, is often tougher than it seems. So, if you can do it, the concept of easing into retirement makes tremendous sense.

But, what if your job or situation doesn't allow for dipping your toes fully in the water before taking the plunge (sorry for the metaphor but it was so obvious!)? Is there still a way to make a smoother transition?

Yes, I think it is possible. Try these ideas:

  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 3 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. Use this time away from work to try out a schedule you control. Does the lack of a list or feeling 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. 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. Betty and I found our 9 days in an RV allowed us to fully relax and simply enjoy each other's company. Those nine days reminded me of the incredible blessing that retirement can be…if I let it.

While none of these ideas replicates the actual feeling of being retired, each gives you a piece of the puzzle that together will be your satisfying retirement.

Have you, a spouse, partner, or close friend tried to ease into retirement? Can you share any of those experiences? Is there something on this list that may work for you?

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