Retirement Beyond the Numbers
- The importance of considering the non-financial aspects of your future retirement well in advance
- How volunteering and exercise impact your mental and physical health
- Ideas on where to find social networking opportunities when you are retired
- How a two-week trip can help you prepare for your retirement
You may recall a past ING commercial that asked, “What’s your number?” Pre-retirees carried around an orange number representing how much money they would need to save in order to retire. Individuals carefully carried their number from home to work and back again, and were encouraged to “take care of your number so it can take care of you in retirement.”
Numbers are certainly important to retirement planning. There are endless articles and research available on how to arrive at the right number. With so much focus on the numbers, it is easy to ignore the rest of your retirement planning. There is so much more to retirement than simply replacing your income. How will you replace your time, your social network, and your sense of purpose once you retire?
Unfortunately these more intangible questions can be much more complicated to answer than ING’s “What’s your number?” Thinking through these questions well in advance will make for a much more enjoyable transition into life away from the university. This report contains six suggestions to help you start to think about your retirement beyond the numbers.
Common Retirement Questions
It’s no surprise that the numbers-based retirement questions are the first ones a university professional is likely to address. After all, these are solvable questions with hard data to help guide your decisions. Although, that doesn’t mean these topics are easy. In fact, they can be incredibly complicated and time-consuming.
The challenge of replacing income and benefits in retirement can be daunting for many university professionals. Reviewing your options for Social Security benefits can feel like an unending puzzle. What will Medicare cover and do I need a supplemental policy? How exactly do Required Minimum Distributions work and where should I take the distributions from? Do I have enough money saved to maintain my current lifestyle?
Thankfully, there are financial professionals that can assist with these tangible retirement questions. But when it comes to answering the questions below, you will need to turn inward and carefully consider what you want your life in retirement to look like.
Uncommon Retirement Questions
Creating a vision for your life in retirement starts with asking yourself some less conventional questions about your future retirement.
- How will you replace the status of a tenured professor?
- How will you replicate the purpose and meaning of day-to-day interactions with colleagues and students?
- What will you do when there are no office hours to fulfill or lectures to plan?
- Where and with whom will you spend your time if not on campus with colleagues?
You are not alone if these questions make you a bit more uncomfortable than the financial planning ones. It can be difficult to envision life beyond any career, but in our experience it can be especially challenging for the university professional.
Each of these questions is important to an enjoyable life beyond the university. What can you start doing now to shape these important characteristics? Below are six suggestions for how you can develop your answers to these questions.
For years your purpose and status has been driven by leadership positions, being regarded as an expert in your field, the results of your research, or the graduate students that you have developed.
That same purpose and status can be found in volunteer opportunities. It’s even likely that your own university offers volunteer opportunities. You can also seek out opportunities to support specific volunteer opportunities in your area with websites like VolunteerMatch.org or AllForGood.org.
It has been well-documented that there are some health benefits to volunteering later in life, even if you’ve never volunteered before. A 2016 study concluded that there was a positive association between volunteering and good mental health in individuals age 40 or more, and this association actually strengthened with age.1
2) Physical Activity
If not already in a regular routine, begin implementing exercise into your daily life. Habits started now can be carried into retirement. Moderate activity done regularly can not only lead to a happy and longer life, but potentially lower medical costs as you age.
Check your local health club for programs geared toward your interests and/or age group, if desired. Or, you could start your own biking, hiking, or walking group with some of your friends and colleagues.
It should come as no surprise that those who exercise regularly reap many added health benefits compared to their sedentary peers. What is surprising, however, is how much of a difference just a little bit of exercise can make for those who have never been active before. A recent study suggests that those who begin an exercise regimen later in life can reduce their mortality risk just as much as people who have exercised their entire lives. In fact, people who began exercising just 2-8 hours per week reduced their mortality risk by 29-36%.2
What social connections can you start to build prior to retirement? These opportunities can begin to replace the feeling of purpose, status, and expertise you enjoyed while at the university.
Many universities have established a “university retirees association” that will host periodic social gatherings, continued education seminars and keynote speakers, and other social networking opportunities for former university employees. Some associations will even arrange international travel opportunities!
Social networks can also be found more organically as you start to explore some of the other ideas on this list such as volunteering, physical activity, and personal development.
4) Personal Development
Personal development can be thought of as engaging in any form of meaningful activity that promotes personal growth, like developing new skills or talents, or unlocking your own hidden potential in new areas. Learning a new skill prior to retirement can be a great way to build meaning and even new relationships.
Perhaps you have always wanted to learn to play the guitar or learn woodworking. It’s never too late to learn a new hobby—or revisit an old one. You may find you’ll discover a new passion that you can enjoy in retirement.
Personal development can be as simple as reading a book for pleasure, or attending a live event that excites you such as a music concert or an inspiring keynote speaker. Seek resources for personal enrichment that you can rely on during your retirement years.
If possible, take an extended trip (2 weeks or more) away from any professional responsibilities. If married, do this with your spouse. Take note of how it feels to enjoy new people and places without work obligations. This is as close to a trial-run of retirement as you can get.
Another exercise that can help you shape your future retirement, and maybe some excitement as well, is to plan your post-retirement travel ahead of time. Pencil in dates and locations on your calendar now and start to think about what you want to see and do while you’re there. Imagining an exciting life beyond retirement can help to make the transition more fulfilling.
6) Learn From Others
Talk to your fellow colleagues that are currently going through the retirement process. What are they doing to create a vision for their retirement lifestyle? Sometimes it can be helpful to verbalize your ideas and share them with others; new and improved ideas can often develop more easily as a result of collaboration.
Talk to former colleagues who have already retired. What worked well for them? What didn’t? What do they wish they knew before they retired? Learn from the wisdom of those who have gone before.
Develop a Plan Now
Retirement for the university professional can be a challenging proposition on all fronts. It’s common to focus all of your attention on the financial aspects of retirement, but failing to prepare for the lifestyle components of your retirement can be detrimental. We hope this article has provided you with exciting ideas that can help you shape your anticipated retirement.
1 Tabassum F, Mohan J, Smith P. Association of volunteering with mental well-being: a lifecourse analysis of a national population-based longitudinal study in the UK. BMJ Open 2016
2 Saint-Maurice PF, Coughlan D, Kelly SP, et al. Association of Leisure-Time Physical Activity Across the Adult Life Course With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality. JAMA Network Open. Published online March 08, 2019
- To learn five suggestions to achieve academic work-life balance, read this report: Academic Work-Life Balance: Ideas for How to Achieve It
- To learn more about the importance of seeking guidance from an independent fiduciary, read this report: Who Can You Really Trust With Your Financial Future?
Have a Question?
As part of our commitment to promoting financial literacy among university professionals, you can schedule a 15-minute phone call with an expert at Filbrandt & Company to learn how these important topics apply to your own situation.
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