Today’s retirees face a radically different landscape relative to previous generations. When Social Security was enacted in 1935, the full retirement age was 65. This is an arbitrary number set by legislation, but now is engraved in the consciousness of the working population as the age when they can “get out.”
Retirement has been thought of as a short period of well-earned rest and relaxation, but as life expectancy continues to rise, retirement periods have risen as well. Let’s break it down. A retirement age of 65, and a life expectancy of 87 equates to 8,000 days, roughly one-third of your adult life.
Most people have ideas of what they would like to accomplish on day 1 of retirement, but how about day 5,246? The idea of travel, golf, or riding on bike trails are only moments during retirement, not a plan for retirement. According to the MIT AgeLab, our 8,000 days can be broken down into four phases:
- The Honeymoon Phase
The transition into retirement is different for everyone. It can be a clean break, or it can be a phased transition where you shift to part-time or consulting work before reaching a full retirement. A new cost of living, healthcare decisions, and maintaining an active social life are issues that arise during this phase. It can help to model your retirement after people you know that are having rich and fulfilling retirements. Consider emulating some of the characteristics you see in people who thrive in retirement.
- The Big Decision Phase
Once adjusted to retirement, retirees now face some big decisions, such as where they would like to live and whom they’d like to spend their time with. This is a good point to define your purpose. Examples are giving back through volunteering, working in some capacity, or enjoying new skills and hobbies.
- The Navigating Longevity Phase
In this phase, longevity risks will start to set in – your health, cognitive ability, and mobility will not be what it always was. Organize your medical and financial information in the event that you need someone to help with certain day-to-day activities. You’ll also want to decide where you’d like to age. Would you like to downsize, stay in your home, or consider life in a retirement community?
- The Solo Journey Phase
Losing a spouse changes your world completely. In this phase, you will have to learn how to rely on yourself and manage the responsibilities that your spouse used to handle. You also have the chance to reinvent yourself with new opportunities and life experiences that arise.
It’s worth noting that depending on your situation, not all phases may apply. Alternatively, you can even have multiple phases that run concurrently through your 8,000 days. Over the next four articles, I will break down each phase and provide tips on how to navigate through each phase of your 8,000 days of retirement.