If you’ve started to feel like retirement isn’t living up to your hopes or expectations, that doesn't mean it's time to resign yourself to disappointment. There's plenty that you can do to get back on track.
You also shouldn’t feel alone. According to statistics published by Age UK, just 29% of adults over the age of 65 say that they are ‘living comfortably’, while 26% are either ‘just getting by’ or ‘finding it difficult’. Meanwhile, 27% of people over 60 are worried about the cost of food – this figure rises to 41% for the cost of heating their homes in the winter.*
With big worries such as these to contend with, it’s clear that growing older and reaching retirement age doesn’t always meet expectations. And aside from financial concerns, there can also be boredom from leaving work if you haven't filled the time with something else. This goes hand in hand with the fact that people often underestimate their life expectancy – you may have started retirement with plenty to do but gradually found yourself wondering… what next?
Time for a fresh start?
The important thing to remember, though, is that a retirement which starts off on the wrong foot doesn’t have to stay that way. Here’s an action plan to help you take on your retirement with a fresh approach.
1. Spend some time on self-reflection
Probably the most important thing that you can do. A lot of the time, people feel dissatisfied without really knowing what would improve life. By spending some time on introspection, you can begin to work out what it is that’s missing in your retirement.
This might include:
Keeping a regular journal. Note down ideas you have and spontaneous thoughts as well as any longer term dreams. After a few weeks, you’ll be able to notice patterns that emerge. This is also a great way to work out your perspective on important issues.
Try something new. Then keep trying something new until you find the thing that sticks. From gardening or knitting to volunteering for a local cause, you have to experiment to find what you enjoy. You could also consider returning to hobbies from when you were younger.
Ask yourself tough questions: “What am I doing that contributes to my happiness?” “What one thing could I do differently tomorrow?” “Which activities leave me feeling most fulfilled?” The idea is to start considering your concerns, rather than avoiding difficult topics.
2. Create a full financial plan
Once you've got a clearer idea of what will bring you fulfilment, it's time to ensure that you have the financial means to achieve it. This is especially important if you're facing debt repayments or struggling to meet day-to-day living costs.
So, if money is the thing that’s holding you back, then it’s time to work on a proper plan. It will help you weigh up your income and expenses and set financial targets, so you can start paying back debt or saving towards a big ticket item.
3. Realign your expectations
One big cause of disappointment can be expecting retirement to offer more than is realistic. When you imagine a time when you’ll be able to do just about anything you want, free from the shackles of work, it’s easy to leave the mundane elements of daily life out of the picture. This means that reality can pale in comparison, even if you are doing things that you thought you’d love.
Better, then, to make your expectations a little more realistic. If you can find satisfaction in down-to-earth hobbies and tasks then day-to-day life could feel more rewarding – and you might find that, with less to live up to, your bigger adventures are more exciting too.
4.Nourish your brain
Often at the crux of it all is boredom: once you’re out of work, the lack of a structured routine and group of colleagues to interact with day-to-day can leave you with more time than you know how to fill. While this problem is exacerbated if you can’t afford trips out or expensive hobbies, you don’t necessarily need to spend out in order to keep your mind healthy and active.
For instance, some online courses on websites such as Coursera are offered for free - they don't require much mobility and can help you expand your horizons. They also have a social function, with forums for talking to other students.
However you choose to reset your retirement, the most important thing is to realise that it doesn't have to be too late.
Are your finances hindering your retirement?
If you're struggling to find the funds to have the retirement that you hoped for then equity release may be able to help. This allows you to unlock money from your home, without having to move.
The most popular type of equity release is a lifetime mortgage - this is a loan secured against your home. Equity release will reduce the value of your estate and may affect your entitlement to means-tested benefits. You should always think carefully before securing a loan against your home.
* Age UK 'Later life in the United Kingdom' August 2017 report: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/documents/en-gb/factsheets/later_life_uk_factsheet.pdf