a group of old friends singing, dancing, and playing guitar together

When we’re young, retirement can feel like a far-off concept, more fantasy than reality. It’s in our middle years that the reality of aging and approaching retirement starts to hit home.

By “home,” I mean your actual home, if you live with or near your own aging parents. Many folks in their 40s and 50s find themselves suddenly grappling with real questions about aging because they see it happening before their own eyes, in their own families.

Helping elderly relatives adjust and be safe is an important role, but it should get you thinking proactively about your own retirement years ahead. It’s easy to get caught up in the dollars and cents aspects and completely forget how the day-to-day of retirement might look.

A good financial advisor should be asking you the kinds of questions that raise deeper conversations about aging. Here are three important ones to get you started.

Question No. 1: Where do you see yourself aging?

Not many people think ahead to a time when they might be unable to do the kind of upkeep and maintenance a home requires. Mowing the lawn, dealing with contractors, painting and repairing, all of these actions involve either physical effort, money, or both. 

Then there’s just living in a home built for a younger adult. It’s only when things start getting hard, when the steps feel steep and the slippery floors turn risky, that we consider alternatives. It might be too late to consider remodeling, change homes, research assisted living options, or choose in-home help.

Thinking ahead about how you will manage your own aging process, and how you will afford it, is a crucial part of any financial planning process.

Question No. 2: What’s your new purpose?

Most people spend a big chunk of their life defined by some externality that’s important to them. Often, that’s a career, raising a family, or both. 

Careers eventually end and children grow up. Often, people enter retirement excited about leaving behind the constraints or responsibilities that work and family can bring, only to miss the purpose brought by them. They soon wish they could turn back the clock, just for a bit. Some return to work, and others regret moving far away from relatives. 

It can be affirming and more manageable to make decisions in pieces, thinking about what you like to do every day and with whom you want to share your time. You might begin a second career, become a full-time volunteer or, who knows, meet a new partner with whom to spend your next phase of your life.

Any new purpose in life will work out better with careful planning, well in advance of big life changes.

Question No. 3: How will you stay connected?

 Humans are social. We thrive and do our best when we feel we are part of something larger and more important. That involves connecting with others.

It’s far too easy in retirement to retreat and lose those social connections. Be it in a religious setting, a hobby or pastime, by continuing to work, or through clubs, we need daily contact with friends for support and for our own mental health.

A good advisor will encourage you to use your resources to get out and stay connected to the world, rather than retreat. Feeling confident in your long-term financial position will give you the time to develop long-term connections that will matter in the years to come.

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