The golden years: plan ahead for your retirement

By Shane Shallow

Retirement gives you the chance to expand your horizons and embrace a new lease of life; planning ahead will make it even better.

Have you always looked forward to the day you leave work for the last time, with a slice of your farewell cake to take home, a ‘happy retirement’ card under your arm and a skip in your step? Whether you relish the freedom from paid employment or wonder what you’re going to do with your new-found time, the key to a real, fulfilling retirement is planning – for your future financial wellbeing as well as your daily activities and general quality of life.

Reap the rewards of all your hard work

Yee-ha! After a good 40-plus years of working hard and squirreling money away for your retirement, now you have a chance to really enjoy your cash. With your children (hopefully) no longer at home, now is the time to treat yourself to that Mediterranean cruise you’ve always fancied, take a tour of south-east Asia, hike in America’s Yellowstone National Park, see the Northern Lights in Lapland or explore the backwaters of Kerala.

You could even take the grand- kids on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disneyland! Group holidays with people of a similar age can be a great option, too, as they offer exciting adventures – often at bargain prices – and take the hassle and stress out of organising a trip.

Now is also the perfect time to take up new sports or activities that you’ve never had the time or money to try before. Take a leaf out of former US President, Jimmy Carter’s, book – he’s been reported as saying he’d never touched a ski until he was 62; now he skis in Colorado a couple of times a year. Before retirement, he said he had never even thought about climbing a mountain and certainly hadn’t planned on becoming a university professor; since then he has climbed Mount Fuji, Mount Kilimanjaro and up to Mount Everest base camp, has found the time to write 21 books and is a long-standing professor at Emory University, Atlanta.

Take up a new hobby

If you’ve always wanted to develop a new skill, now’s your chance! The options are endless, from learning ceramics, sculpting or painting, to playing the piano, ballroom dancing, becoming an amateur astronomer, qualifying as a yoga teacher, learning Chinese or becoming a wine expert. Even if you hated school, this is your time to follow your passion and learn just for fun and mental stimulation, rather than for qualifications – although taking a diploma or degree can be a great motivation for learning, too. For some inspirational ideas for later learning, check out www.u3a.org.uk or look up courses at your local community college.

Enjoy time with your grandchildren

A huge bonus of working less and having more time is hanging out with your grandchildren; all the fun but with less responsibility – and you get to spoil them! It also helps your children by offering them childcare they can trust. Fun activities, such as singing together, making greetings cards and going to the cinema will help to keep you young and active, too!

Get involved with your local community

You still feel capable and healthy, so why not keep working – just as a part-time commitment, for instance? Taking on a paid flexible position can bring you invaluable income, while volunteering for a charity that really means something to you is rewarding and can teach you new skills. You could even be a coach or mentor to up-and-coming staff in your field of work, or become a trustee of a charity.

Move on

When you’ve reached a certain age, do you really want to be wasting your time cleaning and tidying up an empty house – particularly if your children have flown the nest? Move into a residential home in a desirable location instead. Especially attractive for those who like to belong to a community, luxury homes you can relax and enjoy your retirement in are becoming increasingly popular across the country. Many companies, such as Barton Park Homes (www.bartonparkhomes.com), offer a part-exchange scheme with your own home, too, so it’s just like buying a new house.

Take extra care

While you feel fit and strong now, your body needs extra TLC as you age. Keep on top of your health with these tips:

  • START TAKING a good-quality, daily supplement for your hips and knees. Speak to your GP for health advice.
  • VISIT YOUR dentist every six months to keep teeth and gums healthy. If you have dentures, clean them with a separate brush, soak, then brush again.
  • BE SURE to plan a yearly visit to your GP to receive a flu jab before winter sets in.
  • KEEP YOUR muscles, bones and heart strong with an hour’s aerobic exercise four to five times a week. Walking, t’ai chi, yoga swimming, cycling and Pilates are good.
  • YOUR SIGHT changes as you get older, so go for annual eye tests to find potential problems early, and make sure you’re wearing the right prescription lenses.
  • YOU ARE more prone to dehydration as you age. Ensure you drink plenty of water (eight glasses are recommended) a day.

Save for a rainy day

Make sure your future needs are catered for by saving up now

As you get older, you might need a little help at home, so putting in preparatory measures now will help minimise the financial burden of growing older.

There comes a time when you need to start thinking about being cared for a little bit more. And it makes sense to prepare sensibly for your twilight years – knowing you are going to be looked after and living in a pleasant, secure environment will take the stress out of ageing.

Whether it’s extra help at home, retirement housing or a care home, it’s likely that you’ll need to make a contribution to your plans for later life as, while your local authority may be able to assist, it might not cover all the costs.

Your savings can soon be frittered away, so it’s worth getting the advice of an independent financial adviser, such as those at Global Care Specialists (www.globalcareuk.com), who can help you prepare.

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Picture: www.shutterstock.com

First published in At Home with Lorraine Kelly

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