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What Is Your Idea of Retirement?

You thought you had your life all figured out. You planned to do some consulting work and travel extensively. Now that you are retired you realize that continuing to work in the same field is not what you were looking for. After all, you spent more than 35 years doing the same thing. What you need is something different, but what can you do?

Retirement sounds like a dream - until you're actually faced with it.

Can you endlessly play golf and fish for the rest of your life? Maybe the answer is yes, but it is important to face the reality of retirement beforehand.

For many of us, our "retired" life may be as long as our working career. With advances in medicine, life expectancy is increasing and good health means we will lead active lives up to an advanced age.

Taking care of the financial aspect is essential. Whether we like it or not, money will shape our retirement. It requires planning and discipline. You have to provide for the future needs not only for yourself, but possibly your spouse and dependents, including the cost of your children's education.

What is also essential is thinking and planning what you are going to do with all those hours that used to be taken up by work. For many, retiring means continuing their career on a smaller scale. If this works for you, great. For others, it is the exciting opportunity to choose an alternative path such as doing volunteer work for a cause that is close to your heart, returning to school or travelling around the world.

Retirement will require personal adjustments and you will have to address practical concerns such as deciding whether you'll move out of your empty nest and stay in the same city. Knowing what you will do ease pre-retirement stress and the more effort you put in planning your life after work, the easier your transition to retirement will be, letting you sail clear of anxiety, depression and a loss of sense of self-worth.

It seems men often have a harder time than women adjusting to retirement. For may men, work was the central focus of their lives. But many women have focused not only on work, but also on family and household responsibilities. For them it will be a less abrupt change.

What can you do to prepare? Visualize an ideal day after retirement. Is it using your time to help others? Is it a permanent vacation? Do you want to travel or spend time at the cottage. How about working part-time, starting a business or going back to school?

Talk to people who have already retired and ask them about their experience. Ask them what went well and what didn't. There are a lot of excellent books on retirement planning, some of which deal extensively with the non-financial aspects of planning retirement. And, of course, there is the infinite resource of the Internet. Go to popular search engines and type keywords such as "retirement planning" in the search box and see the gold mine of information that is at your fingertips.

Retirement can be the best years of your life, if you have meaning and purpose. Your challenge is finding meaning, but your reward is unlimited fulfillment.