In a recent interview, I was asked the following question:
What are your best tips for single women who want to plan their retirement?
This was my answer:
1. If you haven't done so already, start to think about what a successful retirement would look and feel like for you. What do you think are the component parts of a successful retirement? Write them all down. Try to define your successful retirement in a paragraph.
2. If you haven't done it already, make your bucket list of things that you want to be, do, have and experience before you kick the bucket. Then plan to do them. And, more importantly, take the necessary action steps. Is there anything you can be doing right now to prepare so you can hit the ground running once you retire?
3. Make a list of the things that make you most happy and then plan to do them as often as possible - daily if you can.
4. Do what women are best at - continue to cultivate supportive relationships - get out there, make new friends of all ages, seek out old friends (that's never been so easy with sites such as Friends Reunited, Genes Reunited, Facebook, etc). Build a mutually-supportive network around yourself.
5. If you tend to mainly socialise with people that you work with, start thinking about the people you want to continue to have a relationship with once you retire, and give some thought to the ways in which you could do that. I think it's worth pointing out that, if you want to remain in contact with colleagues and friends from work, you need to be prepared to do most of the work involved in staying in touch yourself - even if it feels like you're the only one making the phone calls and suggesting the meet-ups. Life moves on and, even though people start off with the best intentions of keeping in touch, it doesn't always work out that way.
6. Consider whether you have enough hobbies, interests and activities to keep you occupied. Retirement frees up between 2,000 and 3,000 hours a year, after you add in the time you spend commuting, thinking about and working on work-related activities at home and physically getting ready for work each day. Do you have a nice mix of activities that you can do both alone and with other people? If you live alone, like your own company and prefer solitary activities such as reading and gardening, there can be a tendency to become isolated in retirement. If you're aware that you have these traits (and I definitely do) you might want to consider making regular efforts to get out to meet up with existing friends and make some new ones.
7. If you haven't done so already, start to think about how (and where) you want to live in retirement. Do you want to stay put or is a move on the cards? If you want to relocate, you might want to consider looking for some place that's considered to be particularly single-friendly with lots of things to do, and many opportunities to get involved. What factors are important to you when considering where to live? What sort of community do you want to belong to? What features of a neighbourhood would be essential and what features would be desirable? These are all things to be considered.
8. Get a fee-based, certified, financial adviser/manager that you trust, that you can relate to and whom you feel understands the unique financial needs and circumstances of women. Check in with them on a regular basis to make sure that your money is still invested in the best way that will meet your needs.
9. If you're getting close to retirement, try living on your estimated retirement income now to see how you get on with that. Then, if you find out you're going to struggle, you can do something now before it's too late - for example, you can look for a part-time job or move somewhere cheaper.
10. Visualize your ideal retirement. Focus in on a day in that retirement. What would it look and feel like? Where would you like to be waking up? What would you do when you got out of bed? What would be the view when you looked out of your bedroom window? What could you smell? What could you hear? What kind of clothes would you be putting on? How would you spend your day? What activities would you engage in? How would you be feeling? Which companions would you like to have around you? Who would you be speaking to during the course of the day? What would you be eating? What would you be doing in the evening?
Write it all down. Make it as detailed as possible and keep it close at hand so that you can add to it when you think of something else. Then, think about the following:
What would it take to achieve your ideal retirement?
What might be the consequences of pursuing your ideal retirement?
What might be the consequences of NOT pursuing your ideal retirement?
Are you prepared, or able, to take whatever action is necessary? If not, what are you prepared, or able, to do to narrow the gap between the likely reality of your retirement and your ideal retirement? How close to your ideal could you get?
In retirement coaching circles, there's a well-known saying that, 'Most people spend longer planning their annual holiday or vacation than they do planning their retirement'. By following these tips, you'll be ahead of the curve and give yourself the best chance to avoid joining the 20% of people who report feeling dissatisfied and disillusioned with retirement.
If you're a single woman who is planning retirement, check out The Association of Retired Single Women - it's free to join and we'd love to see you there!