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Preparing for Retirement

Experts give advice on preparing financially and emotionally for the retirement years.

Setting Up a Retirement Plan

To set up a successful retirement plan, the experts recommend the following:

  • Do the research. Find out what kind of plan your employer offers. If you are self-employed or if your employer does not offer a satisfactory retirement plan, check out options at the bank, or visit with a financial planner. Be sure to ask about fees that may be involved with setting up new retirement plans.
  • Join an investment club. In addition to educating yourself with retirement seminars and calculators and staying abreast of current events, it may help to make investing a community affair. "A lot of people don't get really serious about [retirement plans] unless they make it social and fun." says Hushbeck. "Get together once a month, or once every three months to share tips.
  • Trust your instincts. You have the right as a mature person to make your own decisions and judgments, says Hotes, urging people to avoid thinking of themselves as powerless. Think of your options, and if it helps, turn to a trusted friend or financial advisor for support. Also use vigilance in trusting people with your financial and investment portfolio in much the same way you teach kids to be wary of predators on the street.
  • Manage your resources wisely. As with the old saying, "Don't put your eggs in one basket," Robert Willis, PhD, professor of economics at the University of Michigan advises against putting all of your wealth in one company's stock. At the same time, he doesn't recommend hiding your money in a mattress, as the funds will not have a chance to grow.

Manage Your Emotions

In planning for retirement, assessing your psychological portfolio is just as important as examining your financial one, says Nancy K. Schlossberg, EdD, author of Retire Smart, Retire Happy: Finding Your True Path in Life, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Schlossberg says there are three basic areas of change at retirement:

  1. Change in identity. When people retire, they may have to alter how they define or view themselves. For example, instead of saying I work at the World Bank," a person will need to come up with something else. Some people have a hard time filling in the blank. People in positions of power and authority or those who are used to traveling a lot for work may have this experience.
  2. Change in relationships. Your interactions with people at work, the community, and at home will likely shift. Some workers who may have enjoyed talking at the water cooler will lose that same social outlet upon retirement. At the same time, home life may change with spouses or other family members having to adjust to the extra time together. Turf issues may surface. If both husband and wife retire at the same time, for example, issues may arise over who gets to use the telephone, computer, or TV. Or retirees and their adult children may have different expectations regarding family time or baby-sitting of grandchildren.
  3. Change in purpose. A person's mission in life alters at retirement. He is likely no longer expected to go to the office, construction site, or field on the same schedule.
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