Make a practice run at retirement

Make a practice run at retirement

As the days and weeks continue to roll by, we find ourselves in the month of May. It’s a beautiful time of year with blooming flowers, planting in the fields and warm weather outside to enjoy after a long winter and chilly spring. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m really ready to spend time outside and enjoy the many opportunities that are opening up around us.

Throughout the last couple of weeks, I’ve had several conversations around the topics of retirement, caregiving and aging parents. I’d like to share a few general remarks within each of these essential life topics from some research at Iowa State and Alabama University Extension specialists.


Most of us set the goal early in our career of what our retirement might look like. Saving along the way, we envision what our “freedom” will allow us to enjoy. Whether it’s time in a warmer climate, pursuing a favorite hobby or pastime, or traveling to visit family and friends, there comes a time when we think we are ready to slow down from the daily grind.

For many, this becomes reality. Retirement is what they dreamed of. For others, it may bring on new stressors. Change can be stressful, and that’s especially true if thought isn’t given to some of the preparation details. Here are a few questions that might get you started:

—What are the things I enjoy doing? Do I enjoy them enough to do them daily or several times a week? What might my schedule look like? Do I like to help others? And would I consider volunteering or participating in clubs or group events?

—How have I planned financially for these months? Am I prepared to do the things I really want to do, or do I still need to work/save/plan for the future? Keep in mind there is a balance between working longer and having time to really enjoy the time you want, and having “enough” may be an endless journey.

—Where is my social group? If it’s only at work, then looking for other people who enjoy some of the same activities might be a good place to start. Making sure your spouse is on the same page is another important part of the journey. Having these critical conversations well in advance to plan for the future will help to eliminate surprises.

—While planning finances is a huge part of enjoying retirement, remember health insurance, paying down debt and living within the new income may be a challenge.

For any of the above several sources, indicate doing a “practice” run before officially retiring. Take the money you think you will have and live on that amount for a few months. Look for new hobbies or expand circles of friendship to see if you’re emotionally ready to retire. For many of us, there’s also the opportunity to be a part of our aging parents’ lives. If family is close by, there may be ways to help in gradual manners. If they are long distance, that’s another article.

Caregiving takes many definitions and can be anything from sharing meals to full-time care. There are many conversations that can take place here: the first one being to start the conversation with your loved ones. Look for the right time to bring up the subject, perhaps someone else going through a similar experience or something that was in the paper or news. When talking, remember to encourage as much independence as possible. Encourage them to complete important legal documents for their final wishes.

Form a team to help if possible, as it’s easier for everyone. Don’t avoid the topic of finances, especially if it might be a burden on either of the parties involved. Having clear expectations in the beginning can help avoid hurt feelings later. Utilize the computer for those that may not live near and can assist with planning or bill paying from a distance.

Realize there are many resources out there to help guide with information and assist with decision-making. Don’t try and do it all by yourself. Burnout is real and will take a toll on your physical, mental and emotional states. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and have honest conversations.

Caregiving even in simple forms requires being organized to keep lots of information at hand. Set up a system that others may be able to access and add to as needed. And above all, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food and being active are all components that are essential to being a good provider. When we feel good, we can be at our best to help others.

Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension family and consumer sciences educator and may be called at 330-264-8722.

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