Reaching retirement: a not-quite guide

1 August 2017

Chief Editor, Kiwi Wealth News

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We’ve talked about what you can do to prepare for retirement during your 20s and 30s and in middle age. But what happens when you reach the finish line and actually retire? Is it all just golf and Matlock, as the Simpsons promised us? The not-so-big secret is that retirement isn’t the finish line at all. The nature of ‘retirement’, and the understanding of how to live a fulfilling later life, is evolving rapidly, with no one answer any more for what it means.

With that in mind this final piece is less about finance and more about possibilities. Here are a few small thoughts to consider as you look ahead.

Enjoy becoming yourself

Many people spend at least the first few decades of their life discovering who they are, alternately battling and compromising with the world, and finding a path in it. Some people find that retirement is a welcome chance to be yourself, in a way that might not have been possible before. Especially if you have your health, this might be the time to get truly unapologetic about discovering and focusing on what’s important. Which leads to...

Start with desire

A consistent message from retirement planners is to look at the lifestyle you want to lead then work backwards, taking into account your possible longevity and health, and that of the people you want to share your life with. You may be surprisingly healthy for a long while. You may want to travel and spend time with family. You might want to climb mountains or learn Spanish or get really good at videogames.

Try even keeping a list: things to do more of, and things to explore.

The desires themselves will probably evolve – more on that in a moment – but do keep what you want in mind throughout.

Get hold of your KiwiSaver funds

You become eligible to withdraw all your savings as a lump sum when you qualify for NZ Super (currently at the age of 65), as long as you've been a KiwiSaver member for a minimum of five years. Any withdrawals from your KiwiSaver account are tax-free, and you get them by applying through your KiwiSaver provider.

Have something to do

Don’t atrophy. Even if you are thinking of retirement as a time to rest, purpose and challenge are crucial to staying alive in every sense. You can learn things (mature education is a massive, growing sector worldwide). You can volunteer. Work patterns are changing and will continue to do so, and enjoyable part time employment or mentoring can be options. The ‘gig economy’, for all its millennial associations, seems tailor made for people at the further end. Speaking of millennials: as lovely as they are, many have no idea how to run a business. With a little effort and translation, you could learn to reach across the great divide. Ongoing income of some kind can also have a huge benefit in terms of your lifestyle.

Connection is everything

Over and over again, retirement researchers find that your social network is a huge element of quality of life. And let’s be clear: your social network in this sense is almost precisely NOT people you only see on Facebook. Real contact with real people is the key. Close family and former workmates are a start, but it’s worth putting effort into expanding your circles as much as possible. Without rich human connections, a downward spiral is hard to avoid.

Linked to this, one thing many people find is that philanthropy, of all kinds, is incredibly rewarding and nourishing. You don’t have to have large amounts of money: it’s possible to involve yourself on almost any level of a community, connecting and uplifting others, at any age. As with many of the topics around later life, this is something that’s likely to expand enormously over the next few decades – if you’re not taking part already, why not catch the wave?

Make more than time

In a sense, building a good retirement life is the same as a good ‘normal’ life. Circumstances may change, but it’s not a wholly separate part of your lifelong journey, and if at all possible it should be about more than just marking time. One resource we particularly enjoyed while researching this article is the Guardian’s recent series on ‘The New Retirement’ – worth a read if you have the time.

The information provided, or any opinions expressed in this article, are of a general nature only and should not be construed, or relied on, as a recommendation to invest in a particular financial product or class of financial products. You should seek financial advice specific to your circumstances from an Authorised Financial Adviser before making any investment decisions.

Topics: KiwiSaver

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