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Are you ready for retirement?

by Allen Ray

A dear friend retired at the age of 69 following a denominational career that spanned almost 45 years. The last seven years of his career were spent working on a team that I direct. My wife and I had lunch with him recently. He commented: “You know, in those first three months, if you had asked me to come back to work, I would have done so without hesitation. But now — no way! I’m enjoying retirement too much!”

My friend’s experience is not uncommon. Many reach the horizon of retirement with a mixture of emotions that run the gamut from fear to uncertainty to sadness to elation. Along with a sense of arrival and accomplishment, some experience disconnect, isolation, confusion and indecision.

For some, the experience of retirement is like the experience of visiting a foreign country. The language is indecipherable; the culture is unfamiliar; the food is different. Everything — sights, smells, sounds, even the transportation — totally different from that to which we were accustomed. In my 16 years with GuideStone helping people prepare for retirement, I can attest that retirement is not just a change of daily routine. It is a total life change.

So, how do you effectively prepare for the emotional side of this change of life we call retirement?

  • Anticipate some level of grief. There are some things about life before retirement that you will miss dearly. It may be the people with whom you worked or to whom you ministered. It may be the knowledge that what you were doing made a difference in the lives of others. Expect some sense of loss.
  • Recognize that life is not over. Retirement is not a destination, but instead a new beginning. Find ways to reinvest your time, your skill-set and your energies. There is a direct connection between activity and longevity. In retirement, you have a great deal to offer to others. Continue to invest yourself.
  • Stay sharp. My wife is addicted to that new math craze called sudoku. She is convinced that brain challenges like sudoku are one way of preventing premature Alzheimer’s. I encourage you — do everything possible to improve mental, physical and spiritual health in retirement. Develop a plan of daily exercise. Learn something new at your local junior college. Get involved in short or long-term missions endeavors. Stay active; stay sharp!
  • Finally, plan ahead. Anticipate that there will be changes. Prepare to adapt and welcome the changes. Consider how you might need to budget differently. Dialogue with the Social Security Administration and with your retirement plan provider concerning benefits in retirement. Establish goals for five, 10 and 15 years into retirement. These preliminary efforts will better prepare you and may prevent some unpleasant surprises.

Above all, enjoy life. With proper preparation, fiscally and emotionally, retirement can be the richest years of your journey.

Allen Ray is a director-relationship manager for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.