When you think about preparing for retirement, it’s common to focus on the financial aspect — 401(k) balances, target savings and how long you’ll have to work to be comfortable in your post-career life. And getting your finances is order is critical since you’ll be the one paying yourself to live. But finances aren’t the only pre-retirement consideration. Perhaps even more important: What will you do with all your time when you stop working?
To enjoy a full, healthy retirement, consider these four essential lifestyle factors and how you'll plan for them.
1. Relocating — or not
There are lots of reasons to move when you retire. Maybe you want to downsize into a smaller space, be closer to grandkids or friends, or just enjoy nicer weather. This can be a big decision, so it’s important to consider as many aspects of a move as possible, says educational psychologist and transitions expert Elisa Robyn, PhD.
"Before you choose a 'dream' location, spend a bit of time there in each season to make sure you can live there in summer and in winter," she advises. "Even if you are moving to be close to family, research the location for all the things that keep you happy: spiritual or religious organizations, political leanings of the area, access to museums, libraries, parks or recreation centers. You will still need and want your own life."
Also consider your current social network and plan for how you'll keep these relationships going if you choose to relocate. "We all need a support network, so consider how you will build one in whatever location you choose," Robyn says.
2. Coordinating with your partner
When one person within your relationship retires before the other, your everyday life together shifts. Retiring at different times can cause issues with your spouse if you have not talked through what life looks like afterward. Lifestyle transformation coach Andrea Travillian says communicating needs and expectations is essential. "What does the spouse who is still working expect for the retiree? For instance: The working spouse may assume that the non-working spouse will take care of all the household responsibilities," she says.
The best way to deal with this change in your dynamic is to discuss in advance, when possible, how you'll navigate this new chapter together. "If you're the one retiring first, do not expect your partner to suddenly change to fit your new life," Robyn says. "Each of you needs a life of your own, as well as to be a partner in your shared life." (Something to keep in mind: This tends to be easier for women than for men because women often have stronger support networks.)
The best predictor of happiness in retirement is how involved you are in this new phase of your life.
3. Outlining your goals
Determine how you want to spend your time before your retirement begins. Having a sense of meaning and purpose day in and day out will allow you to thrive in your post-work life.
"Make travel plans, commit to reading more, decide to work part-time, volunteer or start a whole new fulfilling career or dream of yours," advises clinical psychologist Sherrie Campbell, Ph.D. "The best predictor of happiness in retirement is how involved you are in this new phase of your life." Don't wait to figure it all out on day one of your retirement.
4. Staying in shape — physically and emotionally
Finally, it's important to take care of yourself — your whole self — during your retirement. Having a plan in place for this allows you to enjoy the physical and mental health you need to make the most of this time.
"Daily walks, swims or yoga classes will help with balance and strength and flexibility," Robyn says. "It's also not too late to set an amazing goal, like completing a marathon. Keep your sense of adventure alive and this will be a wonderful time of your life."
Remember that retirement is a major life change, and the shift can bring waves of emotions as you adjust to your new normal. "There will be ups and downs,” Travillian says. “Be open to accepting and exploring your emotions.” Don't be afraid to seek counseling or coaching to help you prepare for retirement and adjust to the transition, even if most of the changes in your life are positive.