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Retirement Reinvention: Hold Steady or Become a New You?

By Kathleen Coxwell

Retirement reinvention!?!

Maybe you want nothing to change once you retire, or maybe you’re anxious for that next new phase and what it could bring. Retirement isn’t one idea, and it’s definitely not static. It’s just the next stage. And with Americans living much longer than ever before, it can last more than 20 years. So the question is, what to do after retirement? One thing’s for certain, you aren’t short on options.

If you are even slightly interested in reinventing yourself in this stage of life, here are a few tips and some different approaches.

Imagine Your Future and Who You Want to Be!

There is no doubt that you have dreamed of your future and retirement. But, now that it is coming near, it is time to put the dreams for retirement reinvention into plans and get going on your new life.

The sooner you start, the better.

  1. Start by getting as specific as possible about what you want out of this stage as life and really visualize all the details. (Here are 7 tips for imagining your future.)

  2. Next? Write it down! Draw a picture or write out your goals. Committing your dreams to print can profoundly impact your success.

  3. Start making a plan. Map out your path to your retirement reinvention. Write it all down. Keep lists.

  4. Work on your plan every day. Stick reminders around the house, do a little research, make a phone call… do anything to make progress.

Still not sure what exactly you want from a retirement reinvention? Here are some ideas:

Become a Career Student

Some people are natural-born lifelong students, or at least, they’d like to be. If that describes you, you’re not alone. A growing number of retirees and people approaching retirement want a career-student lifestyle. And more than a few colleges have taken notice with an interesting result: You’re familiar with college dorms, but say hello to college retirement communities.

A college retirement community is just what it says it is, a retirement community located on a college campus. Most of these are considered “active” communities, but some, like Indiana’s Notre Dame have a skilled nursing facility too. Here is a list of retirement communities that are associated with a college or university.

If you’re not interested in living on or adjacent to a college campus, you still have opportunities for continuing education. And, there are many ways to make it affordable:

  • Community colleges are almost free

  • Some colleges and universities allow free course audits, which don’t offer credit but do allow class participation.

  • Ask if your college offers low tuition for retirees

  • And, if you’ll be footing the bill, use the 529 college savings plan. It isn’t just for younger students!

Start a Business All Your Own

Starting your own business in retirement is another trend that’s gaining ground. I guess it is kind of the anti retirement reinvention. You could capitalize on the skills that you’ve worked hard to acquire over the years, or branch out and try something entirely new. For example, maybe you’ve been an in-house graphic designer for years, and now you’d like your own company. Or maybe you want to learn graphic design now so that you can start a small business later.

The National Institute on Aging‘s “Growing Older in America: The Health and Retirement Study,” says that most people, particularly Baby Boomers, want to work in retirement. By age 69, 74.4 percent of workers between 1992 and 2002, the period of the study, made a gradual transition from full time to part time and eventually on to full retirement. By comparison, only 14 percent shifted from full-time work to full retirement.

But what if traditional work opportunities aren’t available? Principal Financial Group vice president, Luke Vandermillen, tells the Wall Street Journal that layoffs and ageism play a role in finding traditional employment after retirement. With your own business, that’s a nonissue.

You’ll need business skills and capital to get started, get tips from the Small Business Administration’s 10 Steps to Start a Small Business.

Forget Work, Just Relax!

Maybe all this talk about working in retirement is for the birds, and you’re anxiously waiting for the day when you no longer have to set an alarm clock. According to an Employee Benefit Research Institute 2014 study, you’re in good company. While a large percentage of people plan or want to work in retirement, the realities are much different, at least right now.

They call it an expectation gap. People before retirement expect to work later, to the tune of 67 percent. However, the study shows that only 23 percent of participants actually did work for pay. As with any study, remember that the findings are based only on the people who participate. Your mileage may vary.

But if you look forward to never needing a schedule again, know that you aren’t alone.

The trick to leaving the workforce permanently in retirement is having the income to support your lifestyle. You’ll probably live longer than your ancestors, so you might need more money than you think. And according to Yale News, if you believe the positive stereotypes about retirement, you could suffer fewer illnesses, heal better and add more years to your life.

Volunteer, Make Family or Friends the Priority , Start a New Hobby, Travel…

Retirement is your time. And the possibilities are endless.

What to do after retirement is the question that a great many people face yearly.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics retirees do spend more time in leisure, “Hours worked per day declined with age, while time spent sleeping and doing leisure and sports activities increased.”

Leisure can mean a lot of different things. You can:

  • Volunteer: If volunteering interests you, you might want to explore the opportunities through Senior Corps or Retired Brains.

  • Spend time with grandkids: Recent research indicates that spending time with grand kids could lower your chances of developing Alzheimer’s. And that is on top of all the fun you can have! Check out the American Grandparents Association for more information on grandparenting.

  • Start a new hobby: Having a passion in life can help keep you young and vital. Knitting, golf, photography, home renovation, pottery, chess, building web sites, joining a theater group, jewelry making, stained glass, ballroom dancing, bird watching, fishing, beer making, boating, writing, start a book club, etc… Here are 120 ideas for what to do in retirement.

  • Travel: Check out 7 Tips for Retirement Travel and 9 Ways to Make Retirement Travel Dreams Come True.

No Matter What You Do — Maintain a Retirement Plan

No matter how you choose to spend your time in retirement, you need to be sure that you can afford to pay for your life now and well into the future.

To get started, you need to take stock of how much money you have and how much you will need. If you want to keep the same lifestyle, your expenditures should drop at least somewhat. The advice about needing millions in the bank might not apply to you at all. But the only way to know for sure is by examining your lifestyle and using a tool, such as the New Retirement Retirement Planner.

You can enter your expenses, savings, investments and even where you live. And the calculator helps you assess and tinker with your finances to find retirement security.

Your financial plan doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s, and your life goals don’t either. If you’ve always wanted to write a novel or paint scenery, you could set off in an RV and travel the country while perfecting and creating your art. If you see yourself volunteering time and skills to your community, you could do that, too.

With these and other options, you can also see why your financial plan can’t be cookie cutter. It has to be your own, based on your own life goals.

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