How to Prepare for Retirement

How to Prepare for Retirement

When most of us think about “preparing for retirement” we think about the financial aspects of the transition. We’ll look at the health of our 401(k) plans, our post-retirement budget, and other potential income streams.

While reviewing finances prior to retirement is essential, far too many Americans fail to prepare themselves for the psychological impact of retirement. Many people are excited to retire only to feel disenchanted, bored, and depressed when the day finally arrives.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 9 tips on how to prepare for retirement and maintain a healthy mindset.

1. Start Preparing Early

It’s recommended that you start mentally preparing for retirement about 2 to 5 years before you actually retire.

Think about what retirement might look like for you. Are you selling your home? Will you be traveling or volunteering? Are you going to work part-time or focus on complete relaxation? Do you want to make sure you live near grandkids?

If your goals for retirement are simpler, then you can probably start preparing about 2 years prior to your retirement date. If your plans are more complex (e.g., moving to another state or country), then you’ll obviously need more time. Either way, preparing yourself in advance is a key component of creating an easier transition into retirement.

2. Communicate with Loved Ones

How to Prepare for Retirement

As you prepare for retirement, be sure to speak with your loved ones about your plans.

It’s especially important for spouses to communicate about retirement because they may have different ideas of what retirement means. Maybe your spouse loves their job and doesn’t plan on retiring when you do. Maybe you want to move closer to your grandchildren, but your spouse has dreams of traveling.

How will household chores be split up if one of you is retired and your spouse is still going to work? These are all sources of potential conflict and should be resolved well before your retirement date arrives.

Also, make sure your children are aware of your plans. They may be thinking that you’ll have all the time in the world to babysit grandchildren once you retire. If that’s your plan, then great, but if not, then make it clear when you will and won’t be available.

3. Talk to Friends

One of the best ways to find out what retirement is like is to talk to someone who is already retired. Find out what their challenges were and how they dealt with them.

Ask them what they wished they did differently during the transition. Also, ask what they think they got right.

4. Take a Retirement Test Drive

How to Prepare for Retirement

Some people have the ability to “try out” retirement before they officially retire by using up a large bank of vacation time or by taking a sabbatical for a few months or even a year.

Doing this will help you get a sense of what retirement will be like without completely disengaging from the working world. You may find that you love retirement, and you can move forward with your retirement plans with confidence.

On the other hand, you may see some sources of stress or unhappiness when not working that you never would have seen without actually experiencing it. The good news is that you can return to your job after your test run is over and take proactive steps to reduce or eliminate any pain points when you do actually retire.   

5. Consider a Second Career

It’s not uncommon for many people these days to pursue a second career after retirement. For some, that could be opening their own business, pursuing a passion project, or writing a book.

Many others may continue to work as a consultant or freelancer in their chosen field. Some retired professionals often find opportunities as adjunct professors at local colleges.

Starting a second career after retirement brings in additional income and keeps you active and engaged, but without the stress of a full-time job. It’s something you may want to consider as you prepare for retirement.

6. Commit to Physical Fitness

How to Prepare for Retirement

By now, we’re all aware of the benefits of physical fitness, but what does exercise have to do with retirement? A lot, as it turns out.

Not only does exercise help improve muscle tone and cardiovascular health, but it also improves your mood. According to a study from Harvard Medical School exercise reduces stress hormones and boosts the brain’s production of natural mood-lifting chemicals. It’s a natural antidote to depression that some may experience in retirement.

Exercise also keeps you mobile and strong, which allows you to travel more easily, keep up with grandkids, and get more out of life while in retirement.

Finally, exercise can be an excellent way to maintain social connections in retirement. You can take a walk with friends in the park. You can make new friends in a yoga class. Or, you can get involved with a bowling league or a tennis club.

The best form of exercise is the one you will commit to so just choose something you’ll enjoy. Just be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.

7. Establish your new identity

In our society, our careers don’t just give us money and benefits, they give us an identify and status. Some new retirees just don’t know who they are in retirement, which can be very disorienting.

In fact, the World Health Organization cites a drop in socioeconomic status due to retirement as a major risk factor of depression in older adults. If you identify heavily with your job, then think about what your new identity will be in retirement. You may no longer be a high-performing salesperson, the vice-president of a corporation, or a beloved teacher.

However, you may become a gardener, a musician, a wine enthusiast, or a traveler. Embrace the idea of reinventing yourself a bit. You might enjoy it.

8. Allow for Adjustment

How to Prepare for Retirement

Above all else, you must give yourself time to adjust to your life while in retirement. No matter how much preparation for retirement you do, there will likely be one or more aspects of this life change that you didn’t quite anticipate.

Allow yourself to process those feelings and emotions no matter how uncomfortable they are. You may find journaling helps. You may also choose to speak to a licensed counselor or a spiritual leader for support as you make the transition.

Just try not to hide those feelings or run away from them. Negative thoughts and emotions only tend to grow when they are ignored. 

9. Remember to Celebrate

Reaching retirement is a huge milestone in a person’s life. No matter what, be sure to celebrate your retirement in a way that’s right for you. Throw yourself a big party. Buy yourself an expensive gift you’ve always wanted. Take a 2-month vacation to your favorite destination.

How You Prepare for Retirement is Your Choice

When it comes to how to prepare for retirement, no two people will do it the same. Use the suggestions above to help you focus on creating the most joyful and stress-free transition to retirement possible.

Empire Resume Will Help You Get Hired!

How to Prepare for Retirement

We have greater than a 97% success rate landing our clients’ interviews!


Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

Related Articles: