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How to Retire

Get details on how to retire and prepare for a new lifestyle.

The transition into retirement is different for everyone. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
The transition into retirement is different for everyone.

Figuring out how to retire is different today than it was a few generations ago. Gone are the days when decades of full-time employment ended with a lunch and a gold watch. Workers getting ready to retire must prepare their finances to make sure their investments, pension and Social Security will be there when they need them, and make sure their health benefits are in order.

But perhaps even more importantly, workers must prepare for the social and emotional challenges that come with retirement. Retirees can ease the stress of transition by careful planning and discussion with spouses, children and friends. For those whose identities are strongly tied to their careers, that loss is not to be taken lightly.

Finalizing Retirement Income

People who wish to retire within a year should take the final steps necessary to line up their retirement income and benefits. The Social Security Administration recommends that people apply for Social Security benefits about three months before they wish to begin receiving them. By consolidating accounts and automating as many payments as possible, workers can make their lives much simpler in retirement.

It is important that workers pay attention to the details, as tying up loose ends can help maximize retirement income and ease financial worries. Workers should contact their employer benefits department about a year before they plan to retire to begin the process. Many companies and organizations mandate retirement counseling with an HR representative who can help employees file the right paperwork and discuss common concerns surrounding pensions and benefits.

Emotional and Psychological Concerns

People about to retire might consider sitting down with a counselor to discuss the transition. Many retirees experience depression, as the day-to-day familiarities of coworkers, clients, lunches and meetings evaporate. Though work can often seem a burden, it also gives life meaning and purpose. The key to a happy retirement is figuring out how new activities and relationships will take its place.

Retirement also puts stress on marital relationships. Between work and other commitments, many couples spend years only seeing one another for a few hours each morning and evening. In retirement, all that changes. Retiring couples should acknowledge the issue, and discuss their fears and hopes for the future. Retirement may be the time to take up a joint hobby.

Retirees should also think about maintaining friendships, but also how they might establish new ones. Regular tennis and golf matches help fill the hours, but it is important to meet new people. Joining a club or service organization is a good way to meet people and give back to the community.

Transitioning into Retirement

Retirees should take steps to build their social network, but may also consider transitioning into retirement after a period of part-time employment to maintain a part of their working life. Entrepreneur reports that many employers now have programs that reassign employees to part-time positions after a period of separation from the company.

Though these programs generally do not allow workers to continue accruing retirement benefits, they can continue to draw pay while receiving a pension. Transition programs often give retirees a chance to do something entirely new within the organization; for instance, lead tours or even work in reception. Retirees benefit from the flexible hours, but they are still connected to their coworkers and the organization's culture and mission.

Planning a Second Career

Individuals who leave a company for good may end up embarking on second careers. The AARP encourages people to make a wish list: What is it they have always wanted to do? Do they have the resources to relocate, or go back to school? Instead of seeing retirement as the end, it is healthy to look at it as a new beginning, one that may have false starts along the way, just like any other beginning.

Staying active after retirement can be very rewarding and can provide a sense of purpose and direction. Many people end up starting their own business, though retirement is also a good time to volunteer. Retirees often join the Peace Corps, mentor children and get involved with the theater -- the options are limitless. The key to getting started is planning. Professionals used to approaching problems analytically might consider tackling their retirement the same way. Making a business plan that details goals, resources and pitfalls might be a good way to start.

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