Danielle McCarthy

Retirement Life

The essential thing you need to do in your first year of retirement

The essential thing you need to do in your first year of retirement

Megan Giles, Retirement Transition Consultant, supports those approaching retirement to successfully transition and create a retirement they will love to live!

It is great to have principles to live by such as ‘take each day as it comes’ and ‘focus on the good’ but what do they actually mean and what do they look like on a day-to-day basis in retirement? How do they help you to fill your days purposefully?

You don’t need a detailed plan for retirement and in fact this is the beauty of life after work – being able to slow down and do less. That said, you’re not dead yet and the statistics suggest that you’re a long way from it with life expectancy in New Zealand now extending into the mid-80s. There’s a whole lot of living to be done!

The challenge with relying on principles alone is that you run the risk of simply drifting through retirement. There is no impetus to jump out of bed each day. Your goals do not need to be all-consuming, after all freedom is what you seek in retirement, but they will provide you with something to work towards and thus give meaning to your days or weeks. It may be finishing that watercolour painting, collecting funds for your chosen charity, taking the 4X4 to the tip of Cape York or recovering from a hip replacement. What is it that motivates and interests you?

Interestingly, there is research to suggest that the nature of these goals is not the critical factor for a successful transition into retirement (i.e. they needn’t be daring goals) but rather that you do have life goals in place.

Ask yourself, what did you thrive on at work? I suspect that one aspect may have been the sense of satisfaction you felt when you achieved a goal such as hitting a target, introducing a new program, making the impossible possible for a client or student, or meeting that deadline? Do you have that buzz in retirement?

Cathy* had recently retired and knew that she needed to improve her fitness in order to run around after the grandkids and enjoy more travel in retirement (her husband is an avid bushwalker). Her job for the past 15 years had been primarily desk based and as such her fitness had suffered.

She wanted to become fitter and repeatedly affirmed this to her husband and friends. Unfortunately her fitness level remained at a standstill for the first six months of retirement. Whilst she intended to ‘get fit’, she had no course of action for making it happen.

Then something changed. She started going to the gym three times a week, then running weekly and a few months later completed her first 5km fun run! Imagine the sense of satisfaction she felt when she (in her own words) ‘near collapsed over the finish line’?

So what was different?

She set a SMART goal. You may be familiar with the concept of SMART goals from your work (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound goals) and the acronym may make you bristle… All you can think of is wasted time in meetings with a manager harping on about the ‘bottom line’ and the need to do ‘more with less’ (you left these conversations behind when you retired!). But stay with me for a moment as there is genuine value in this approach.

Cathy’s goal became to complete the 5km Mother’s Day fun run.

Her goal was specific (to run), measurable (5 kms), achievable (5 kms not a marathon), relevant (improved fitness would help her when playing with the grandkids and bushwalking) and time-bound (she signed up to complete the run on Mother’s Day). Her desire to become fit was no longer a just a vague ideal.

Creating a focused, SMART goal enabled Cathy to find the motivation, develop an action plan, and gain the support needed to achieve it.

SMART goals are easy for anyone to use, anywhere. They are not only for the workplace. And the best thing? You don’t need any sophisticated tools or software to create them.

If there are things you dream of doing in retirement but find them languishing on your ‘to do’ list, why not grab a notebook (or your iPad), a drink of choice and your significant other and create 2-3 key (SMART) goals for the coming year. Imagine the sense of achievement you will feel when you look back in 12 months’ time.