Life Changes

3 Tips for Pursuing an Active Retirement

A fulfilling, active retirement depends on mental and financial preparation. These three important ideas can help.

by Michael W. Brough - February 11, 2019

Retirement today is active—a time to reinvent yourself, pursue your passions, or do the work that you find especially rewarding.

The freedom to do that requires careful planning, says Will Larson, Retirement Planning Strategist for Wells Fargo Advisors. Here, he provides his top three ideas to consider when it comes to preparing for active, fulfilling retirement years.

1. Have a clear, focused plan

During most of your working life, it’s fine to plan based on realistic estimates of what your retirement might be like. “About five years before you retire, though, you should get very accurate and detailed with the assumptions about how you’ll live and what you want to accomplish,” Larson says.

Along with creating a detailed estimate of your costs in retirement, this is also the time to plan out what you want in this next chapter—and how you’ll afford it.

“For some people, recognizing that you can retire is often more powerful than the act itself,” Larson says. Which means that when you no longer need to work, you might choose to work anyway, for the sheer enjoyment—or choose to work at a job you’re passionate about but have never had the freedom to try before. A side benefit: Continuing to work can help you delay using your retirement savings.

“About five years before you retire, you should get very accurate and detailed with the assumptions about how you’ll live and what you want to accomplish.”

— Will Larson, Retirement Planning Strategist, Wells Fargo Advisors

2. Let your finances inform your lifestyle changes

Once you make the switch to retirement, you might also need to adjust the way you think about your money. In your working years, you save for retirement and focus on accumulating assets. In retirement, you take actions that help give you a reliable, sustainable cash flow and keep your spending and expenses in line with that cash flow.

It’s crucial to develop a clear picture of your income potential before entering retirement. That income potential will drive the decisions you make about working and spending during retirement. “The answers will help you determine whether your retirement vacations are to Paris, France, or Paris, Texas,” says Larson. For more, see “Retirement Income: Do You Know What You Will Need?”

3. Prepare for the psychological shift

Larson often asks this question of clients who are considering retirement: “It’s Tuesday at 9:45 in the morning, and you’re retired. What are you doing?”

The question is designed to spur thought. How will you restructure your life when your day is potentially filled with free time?

To help clients get ready for the shift, Larson often suggests that they consider easing into changes slowly—perhaps working reduced hours for the years leading to retirement or using vacation days to try out a retirement lifestyle. For some, this transition phase leads to new expectations around retirement—and new goals for their life in retirement.

Larson tells his clients that planning for retirement “isn’t complicated but it is complex” due to the many inter-related components. For a fulfilling retirement, start planning those details early and carry out your plan deliberately.

Michael W. Brough is a Texas-based writer whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, USA Today, and other outlets.

Image by iStock

Additional Resources

These six mistakes can have a huge impact or your retirement lifestyle.

See our FAQs on creating a retirement income plan.