My darlings, please enjoy this fantastic article by Paula Marie Usrey. Paula founded Boomer Best U to promote positive aging and to fight age discrimination. She wrote this most recent article all about planning for retirement and living your best life after 50! Enjoy.
My friend Laura retired early. She recently shared, “I have no idea how I managed to work, raise kids as a single parent and stay involved in the community for so many years. Now I finally have time to do some things just for me.” She mentioned other friends and family members were concerned she couldn’t possibly be happy fussing around the house and spending time pursuing personal enrichment interests—especially after years of high-level responsibilities.
However, Laura told me she’s never been happier. As a woman, Laura is choosing to define her retirement years on her own terms.
A New Lease on Life
Laura feels like she has a new lease on life—her own. She’s not alone. Citing research from TD Ameritrade, a 2018 USA Today article revealed that 62% of women are starting to view their post-career years as a “liberating” period in their lives. 72% of the women surveyed also felt that after leaving the workplace, they could finally focus more on their own interests rather than those of everyone else.
What Laura and other women have realized is that women’s life and retirement experiences often differ from the typical male experience. Women like Laura also realize they have to plan for what could be 30 or more years after retirement.
Planning for Your Best Years
Planning for what could be some of the best, most liberating years of our lives is something every woman should take seriously before leaving a full-time position.
Three years prior to retiring, I started reading every book, article, and study I could find about what to expect post-career. I even became a certified professional retirement coach prior to my own retirement. I learned that retirement is actually a pretty big deal; it involves a transition period that a lot of people don’t anticipate. I also discovered that there are both financial and lifestyle considerations that should be examined prior to leaving the workplace.
While I don’t do personal coaching, I can share three general retirement considerations that I believe every woman needs to include in her planning by the time she reaches her 50s: financial preparation, personal expectations, and health issues.
Know Your Numbers
Certainly, it is important for all of us to have a good grip on our finances before retiring. Unfortunately, women often fall short in this area. In part, this is because of pay inequities. Other factors like time spent raising children or caring for other family members can also impact our financial security.
Further, most Americans, including women, don’t fully understand the medical costs associated with aging. Despite what some people may believe, Medicare is not free and does not cover all of one’s common medical expenses.
In addition, ‘gray divorce’ is more common than some might recognize. The Pew Research Center reports that gray divorces are on the rise and can significantly affect finances—especially for women.
When I was in my mid-40s, I became a statistic; I unexpectedly became a divorcee and faced an uncertain financial future. I had a lot of financial catching up to do, but it was possible. A financial planner provided me with invaluable advice. Their insights allowed me to carefully manage my money for the next 20 years and work longer than I had originally anticipated. I was finally able to leave my full-time position last December—just weeks before my 67th birthday.
Know and Communicate Your Expectations
Some women make the mistake of believing they can walk away from work and will automatically have time for themselves. But without some planning and communication, this often doesn’t happen. For example, Karen looked forward to having some of her own time after retiring. What she didn’t realize was that her daughter had been looking forward to a free, full-time babysitter and her husband was expecting Karen to start doing all of the cooking and housecleaning. After a year of retirement, Karen wanted to go back to work.
Because she didn’t have a clear sense of her own priorities, Karen had a difficult time setting limits on what she was comfortable doing for everyone else. If Karen had spent sufficient time identifying what was most important to her, she could have discussed her needs with her family and others prior to retiring.
Learning from others like Karen, I made sure my current husband and I talked about our expectations long before I ended my career. We agreed that both of us had shared and individual dreams that needed to be honored.
Know Your Health Priorities
Most of us have heard that it’s important to get sufficient sleep, appropriate exercise, and maintain a healthy diet. We’ve also heard that we need to manage our weight and receive regular check-ups. In addition, my daughter-in-law, who has a doctorate in physical therapy, said that it is very important for us to work on our balance as we age. As reported in a 2018 Science Daily article, recent research indicates that even in middle-age, women are more likely to fall than men. The risk of broken bones and other complications can be life-altering.
I once knew a woman named Kathy who spent years working behind a desk. After she would get home from work each night, she said she usually threw something together for dinner, did some light household chores, and then crashed in front of the television until she fell asleep.
By her 50s, Kathy began having some health problems including a hip injury from a fall. Her doctor told her she was “out of wiggle room” and needed to make immediate changes or suffer the consequences later. Kathy thought she could wait until after she retired to start taking care of herself. Unfortunately, once Kathy retired at 65, she had developed two chronic health issues that affected her quality of life.
As women, we may ignore our health because we are too busy taking care of everyone and everything else. But if we don’t take care of our health now, we can end up paying a steep price later.
In Spite of Our Best Plans, Life Happens
With adequate and thoughtful preparation, we can increase the odds that we’ll live longer, more satisfying lives. At the same time, it is true that we cannot control everything; life happens! In spite of our best efforts to take care of ourselves, a serious illness can change our financial situation as well as our life course.
We may know exactly what we want to do post-career, but then a parent or spouse needs care. At that point, our priorities suddenly shift.
Under such circumstances, the best advice I’ve ever received was from a 98-year-old neighbor and friend who said, “Stay positive no matter what–even when it is hard.” My neighbor was right. Studies now reveal that having the right attitude can contribute to longer, more satisfying lives!
Here is a great Guide to Retirement Planning provided by My Wealth Solutions.
Paula Marie Usrey founded Boomer Best U to help promote positive aging and fight age discrimination. She has also given a TEDx presentation on how to live your best life at any age. Paula recently retired as an Associate Professor of Communication from Umpqua Community College.
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