7 key steps to prepare for a happy, fulfilled retirement

If you’re thinking about how to prepare for your retirement, the first thing that pops to mind is money. As travel lovers we know you will want your retirement planning to include plenty of trips and adventures too, but a happy, fulfilled retirement is about more than having the means to live large.

Let’s run through the seven things that happy retirees do and what retirement preparation steps you should take to quit the 9-to-5, tick off your bucket list and never look back.

1. Get your finances in order

Retirement planning is not all about money, but it is still the number one factor. After all, to wind down your career and call it quits once and for all you need the finances – like property, assets, investments and pension savings – to back the decision. 

You don’t need all the riches in the world, but enough to cover your bills without worry, to pay for medical care and to find joy and travel loads, of course. There’s also so much to retirement planning that goes beyond your finances and that money can’t buy – like time.

How to plan for retirement

2. Get healthy and stay physically active

After your finances the second most important thing when it comes to retirement preparation is your health. Having good health is the most important thing in life and even moreso when you want to enjoy yourself and have a happy retirement. 

Thousands of studies have linked exercise and a healthy diet to having a healthy life. Looking after your body and gut will reduce the risk of developing certain health conditions, keep you energy levels up (definitely necessary if you have grandkids!), boost your immunity and keep your spirits high.

It’s never too late to make healthy changes to your lifestyle and some research has shown that those who make major healthy lifestyle changes late in life are still able to seriously lower the risk of cardiovascular illnesses.

As for weekly exercise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults do 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity. Even just aiming for more than 7,500 steps per day can reduce blood pressure and risk of dementia, and increase creativity.

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3. Stay social

If this pandemic has taught us anything it’s that we humans crave real connection. How you plan to prepare for retirement is up to you, but be sure to consider how social interactions and activities will feed into your new routine. 

The happiest retirees are those who spend time with others and research actually links social isolation to increased rates of heart disease, stroke dementia, depression and anxiety. Once you leave the workforce your social circle may naturally shrink, so finding hobbies, social groups and activities to fill your days is as important as eating healthy and exercising.

Make time to connect with family and friends in person or with regular video calls, find social events and activities in your local area, and plan trips and adventures with others.

RELATED BLOG: Why friendships are even more important in retirement

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4. Find a new purpose

If you’ve dedicated your whole life to helping others, nurturing young minds or protecting the community, leaving that all behind in retirement might be a tough transition. There is, of course, this idea that retirement will be all about knitting sweaters, long rounds of golf and trips to the seaside, but it’s important to find activities that give you a sense of purpose.

Many retirees plan to work longer than needed just to hold onto that sense of meaning, but your retirement planning should take your life purpose into consideration. If you plan to travel when you retire, rather than kick your feet up with a book at the beach, plan trips that will stimulate your mind, connect with local culture and teach you things you can’t read in a textbook.

Then there is, of course, volunteering. A retired nurse might find herself helping out at the local care home. A retired teacher might find ways to help disadvantaged children feel supported. Being involved in the community like this gives retirees strong self-esteem and a sense of belonging, which translates to a happier, healthier retirement. There are hundreds of charities and non-profits that could use the extra hands and compassion.

5. Keep your mind active

Never stop learning is a piece of advice a person of any age should take seriously. Experts seem to agree that ongoing learning will keep you mentally sharp as you age.

How you plan and prepare to keep your mind busy and active in retirement goes beyond simply learning new, fun things. This ongoing education will actually help prevent cognitive decline and reduce your risk of dementia. Hello! Sign us up for classes, please!

Your brain is a muscle, so like the rest of your body it wants to be moved consistently. A crossword a day actually does help keep dementia away. Try playing brain games or look for courses and classes at a community centre, library or seniors centre. You could learn to paint, try a new instrument or even a language. Loads of universities now offer free short courses – if you complete one, maybe you could say you went to Harvard university…

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6. Write a bucket list

Start your retirement preparation by writing down all the things you want to do and achieve in your later years. Like the opposite to planning a career pathway, think about all the things you said you’d like to do “one day” and make them happen with your new free time.

Hopefully the things on your list will line up with the above key points. Maybe you wanted to learn to play the piano but having a family got in the way. Maybe you hoped to visit Australia one day but never had enough annual leave to spare.

7. Travel more

Did “buy an around-the-world plane ticket” pop up in your retirement bucket list planning? Have you always wanted to witness the Mona Lisa up close in Paris and climb the Eiffel Tower? Are you eager to trace down your roots through the Scottish Highlands? Retirement is the perfect time to travel. After all, there’s no need to beg your boss for time off!

Travel is the best investment you can make in yourself, which takes us back to key point #1. Think about how to prepare your finances for retirement to include plenty of touring and travel, if that’s a major interest. If taking a long trip isn’t possible, look for shorter week-long tours and spread them out across a five- or 10-year plan.

One of our past guests Glenice M says: “My first ever overseas trip was with Trafalgar in 2013 to the UK. [It was] my retirement treat for me, solo, 65 and feeling a little unsure. I need not have worried. Trafalgar Travel Director, coach driver and all 40-something passengers looked after me for the entire 30-something days!!” 

Now a grand adventure sounds like the ideal way to celebrate so many decades of hard work!

RELATED BLOG: How to plan your world travel after retirement?

Are you feeling more confident on how you prepare for retirement? Let us know what retirement preparation tips you have in the comments below….

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