I guess you are wondering, ‘what has retirement got to do with health?’ A lot if you ask me. More often than not when we think of retirement, just pension, jumps to our mind! There really is a lot more to retirement than pensions, your whole lifestyle changes and if you don’t plan for how your life changes, even the pension will go nowhere near enough particularly now when we are living longer post retirement.
Remember health according to the World Health Organisation is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. What better way to stay healthy than to plan your retirement.
On my way to or from work every day, I see a lot of elderly men 65 years and above speaking in impeccable English, beg for money to buy food and medicines. A few times I ask them why they are on the streets begging, the answer is either their pensions have not been paid in months or years, or they do not have money to go chase it at the ministry! My heart goes out to them. When I ask why they are not staying with their children, the answer is usually that their children are somewhere trying to keep their own body and soul together. Going back to their villages to farm or something is not an option for them because they don’t know how. This reminds me about a retirement training I had to do for an organization for new retirees, at the end of the day, our collective conclusions were that:
- the training came too late
- the retirement took them by surprise
- most of these executives had no transferable skills
- they had no other identity but the one attached to their position at work
- they didn’t know what to do with the excess time and money they had
It wasn’t a good feeling, don’t let this happen to you. Planning your retirement is possibly one of the smartest and most exciting and things you can possibly do. You do not have to be old before you start making wise decisions about your future.
What is retirement?
Retirement is when you stop living at work and begin working at living. It is a passage from one lifestyle to another – a career transition. When to retire is laden with emotions, predictions, and ambiguous financial considerations. Individuals who plan use this opportunity to chase their passion; a lot have become entrepreneurs, training, coaching, and more. The good thing is that technology has played a significant role in developing us.
In the past
In the days of our grandparents, more Nigerians were civil servants or company employees; very few were self-employed. Retirement meant stopping work totally at an official age of 65 years or after 35 years of service – whichever came first and returning to the villages, to wait for a monthly pension which rarely came and was barely enough for one’s monthly upkeep. Retirement was almost as if you were going home to die!
For some people, the mere thought of retirement causes a lot of anxiety, and many feel overwhelmed and unprepared. The unreliable nature of pensions payment fuels some of this fear. But with private pension managers and the new scheme, pensions are a bit more reliable.
In my parents and grandparents days, children were expected to care for older family members as they age. Unfortunately, urbanisation and the present economic situation that we have found ourselves won’t permit long-term dependence. Our children’s generation have no time for such dependence so the onus is on us to plan; apart from this, there is more to retirement than a pension.
In the present
Besides, a lot has changed, retirement is different from what it used to be; thanks to technology people are retiring younger and living longer. Retirement thus fills up a larger chunk of time for our generation than it did for our grandparents. It is, therefore, essential to carefully plan so that your retirement is enjoyable and fulfilling when you get there. It is important to understand what factors are associated with healthy and enjoyable retirements to provide the best support and opportunities to maximise people’s ability to adjust to changing needs and environments.
Financial, physical and psychological health concerns are a major part of the retirement decision. There is a need for us to balance the life we want to live today with the life we want to live in retirement. It is best we plan our retirement early probably in our late 30s 0r 40s.
Before we retire, it is paramount that we do a soul search, discover who we are as well as find answers to the following:
What exactly does retirement mean to me?
What are my fears and concerns?
How do I feel about having a non-structured life?
How does the idea of not collecting a paycheck feel?
What do I want to do with the rest of my life?
How will I spend my time, and what do I want to do on a typical day?
What do I want to learn, and where?
What do I want to teach?
Where and how will I live?
Where do I get care and support?
Is it possible now to resurrect some of the dreams and passion deferred?
What to do
Time and tide waits for no one is a famous saying; the sooner you get started at planning, the greater your chance of reaching your retirement goal. We need to live within our means, save at least 60% of our annual income. Take a year or two to live on the amount you’ll have in retirement; this will give you a chance to see if that figure is realistic, consider the higher cost of healthcare particularly due to diseases of ageing and loneliness. This cost is often taken for granted. By overlooking the potential cost of healthcare, retirees could become cash trapped in their most vulnerable years. We also need to make plans for long-term care; if you have taken care of an old parent, you will understand what I mean. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find reliable caregivers and help at home, and it gets worse each day. We, therefore, need to make plans to move to smaller manageable houses, invest in labour saving devices, budget for professional housekeepers, find ways of engaging ourselves; and more. From these challenges you will conclude that the taboo about elderly homes or adult day care will soon be a thing of the past, this will be the lesser of the evil of staying alone at home.
Another thing is many of us erroneously think retirement is an extended vacation. Not true at all, retirement may be just that for the first few weeks or months, then you get bored. For many people, retirement is a vague idea. Once the time arrives, they don’t know what to do. Don’t just retire, spend time discovering what you’re retiring to.No matter how demanding your job was, no longer having that job gives you a lot of free time. Before you leave your full-time job, think about working part-time or consulting in your former industry to help keep you busy and transition seamlessly to retirement. So, just as you have a financial plan when it comes to your retirement, you should consider the type of lifestyle you want and expect from retirement as well.
Managing your retirement
Tread lightly at the beginning, be gentle and get oriented with your new lifestyle. Remember, you may have lost relationships with friends, family, spouse while busy developing a career, this comes back to haunt you when you retire, Try and repair as well as develop these relationships so you do not end up lonely and miserable. For some people, retirement is like losing oneself and identity, redefine yourself and find a purpose driven life, optimise retirement benefits and options. You cannot get the most value out of your money without first knowing what purpose(s) these funds serves. Redirecting expenditures is a lot easier with a clear picture of your goals and intent. Often the greatest and biggest impact of retirement is felt mentally and emotionally – a sense of identity, usefulness, and power is tied up with the job for years especially for men.
Take stock of your family and community involvement, your spiritual and emotional well-being, and the state of your physical health before you retire. Ask yourself what you will miss from work and then find replacements before your retire. Become part of community – volunteer, work part-time or mentor, develop new friendships and skills.
Your role as a worker may be over or reduced, but your role as a spouse, partner, parent, or friend doesn’t stop, and neither do other multiple roles you play.
Summary of solutions
• Have a clear vision of the kind of life that you want
• Take healthy approach to mental and physical ageing
• Health is wealth, take a holistic approach to retirement, look after yourself and develop healthy living habits. Living a healthy lifestyle can help you to mitigate health-related expenses during retirement years
• Get an actual definition of ‘Work’ as well as have a positive attitude towards your future
• Nurture family and personal relationships, develop hobbies and take a balanced approach to leisure
• Maintain ‘financial comfort’. Reduce spending and budget new cost of living – rent (move to a smaller apartment).
Look out for yourself: Don’t expect anyone to look out for you when it comes to saving for your retirement, not even private pension companies. Do not gamble and make silly decisions with all the money you have saved up. A lot of poachers would approach you at this time simply because they know that you have a lot of money saved up, invest wisely.
Retirement can get pretty boring at times. Think about it! The children are out of the house, and you have no office to go to, so you wake up early in the morning and make that cup of coffee but then there is nothing else to do with the rest of your day. You must, however, try to keep yourself busy during retirement. Find a small project, preferably one that would earn you some money. Thank God for technology and the internet. Retirement is the time to do finally that business you have always wanted to do. While the schedule may not be as hectic as it used to be when you were working in a company, it would still give you a reason to wake up in the morning and also earn you some money to pay your bills – the bills never stop.
On a lighter note
Once upon a time there was a distinguished politician who went into retirement after a long career of hectic schedules, important tasks, and continual limelight. After hanging around the house for the first week of his new-found freedom, he was gently chastised by his wife, who informed him that she had married him for better or worse, but not for lunch! Don’t let this happen to you. You can occupy yourself in the following ways: write articles for news papers or a blog, start your blog, edit articles, lecture online, coach, volunteer, start a small retail business, learn gardening and more. You can get training – COSERA, Health writers hub, free online courses.
Groups you can join: Google topics that interest you and you will find interesting groups and communities
Many workers spend their careers dreaming about the day they retire, but it takes more than ideas to create a happy retirement. To be financially successful in retirement, workers should carefully review their assets and their spending. Creating a post-retirement budget is another essential part of retirement planning since that budget will help you make the all-important transition from collecting a paycheck to collecting a monthly pension check.
Consider personal goal setting and healthy lifestyle choices for a successful transition. A healthy lifestyle is all encompassing, and it helps us achieve optimal well-being. A healthy lifestyle takes care of the total person and is the most productive and sustainable platform for preventive health. Lifestyle takes care of our physical, emotional, sexual, social, intellectual and financial health.
Once financial affairs are for retirement, mental preparations should be the next step. Going from daily commutes to waking up with nowhere in particular to go is a huge change, especially when you have spent the majority of your life working. Consider what you plan to do to keep yourself busy in your retirement.
Was this useful? Your contributions and questions are welcome, thank you.
Wishing you good health and happiness,
Dr. Nse Onyebuchi