Your Life

13 essential steps to ease into retirement

- May 24, 2024 3 MIN READ
What you can do to ease into retirement

Retirement is one of life’s great crossroads. It is an exciting and challenging period where most people take stock of their lives.

For some retirement is a joy, for others it is a time of worry. So here are some good tips on how to make the change as smooth as possible and hopefully give you a springboard to a terrific retirement.

1. Don’t panic

The decisions you make will affect the rest of your life, so relax and take your time. Often Australians retire with a sum of money the size of which they’ve never seen before. But remember it will have to last you the rest of your life, which could be another 30 or 40 years. It’s a big decision.

2. Seek financial advice

Don’t even try to work out your superannuation. It has become so complicated and the tax treatment so individual that you must speak to a professional.

Get the advice from preferably two different reliable sources. Usually your superannuation fund will have an alliance with a group of financial planners or have their own in-house, so start there – but also add a couple of others. Shop around for the options which best suit your lifestyle and the income level you wish to achieve. Decide what you want your money to do for you before deciding what to do with your money.

3. Pay down debt

The worst thing that can happen to a retiree is to be over your head in debt and not have a regular salary coming in. Ask your adviser how to use your money to pay off debt: savings, redundancy, benefits or superannuation.

4. Decide where you want to live

This decision has many implications for both your lifestyle and financial future.

Don’t over-invest in your home at the expense of income. A common problem for many retirees is that they become asset rich and cash poor because they’ve tied so much up in their own house.

Check land values to make sure rates will not be an unforeseen problem and, in a growing number of cases, whether land tax will cripple you financially.

Consider the emotional stress of moving immediately and maybe put it off for a year or so until you’re settled.

5. Get a comprehensive health check

This will hopefully detect any problems so you know where you stand on health issues. It’s amazing how many people retire and then suffer health problems as their lifestyle changes. So don’t underestimate the need to keep healthy, fit and active.

6. Make major lifestyle decisions

Know where you stand with major expenditures in retirement such as holidays or a new car. Also pick up some outside interests or hobbies, otherwise you will drive your spouse batty. It can be an enormous step to go from full-time work to literally nothing. Start planning early on how you’ll fill the time to keep your brain and body active.

7. Discuss things with your partner

Talk to your partner who will also be affected by any decisions you make. They may have some valuable advice to contribute and deserve to know what you are doing. After all, your relationship should be just as exciting and fulfilling in retirement as it was when you were working.

8. Find purposeful work

Find something meaningful to do with your time. 50 per cent of retirees expect to do some sort of work, if only on a part-time or voluntary basis. But make sure the work fits your values, skills, interests and personality type.

9. Have patience and empathy

Most women who have retired or have been at home for a few years have concerns about their partner retiring to ‘run the home like they run the office’. This transition time needs patience, understanding and communication.

10. Work on your social life

This one is for the men as women generally do better at being socially active. Men are traditionally poor at maintaining relationships outside of the workplace, so in retirement, cultivating new friends is often a challenge. A proactive strategy for men is to start developing some personal relationships before you retire.

11. Cultivate hobbies, interests and creativity

Build a plan that allows you to experience many different activities – variety really is the spice of life. Have a go at something you’re interested in and be open to trying things you think you won’t like. It’s surprising what we learn about ourselves as long as we’re prepared to give new things a go.

12. Maintain intellectual growth and learning

At long last you can learn how to build that dining room table, restore the antique bike, learn what your computer can really do, or even go to university to fulfil a lifelong dream. In other words, try to keep your mind active and engaged with ongoing projects and the wider world.

13. Join something

This is a combination of all the above, but there is an organisation covering just about anything and everything you have ever thought of. Staying socially connected, mentally challenged and actively engaged in your community are the keys to living a long and healthy life.

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