Decisions, Decisions: The Next Phase in Thinking About Retirement

Decisions, Decisions: The Next Phase in Thinking About Retirement

| July 31, 2018

In part one of our five-part series, we discussed the uncertainty and fear many feel when they hear the word retirement. Part two addressed what the MIT Age Lab calls the Honeymoon Phase of retirement, which is akin to a work sabbatical or a long break between jobs, only that transition is from your normal routine to a whole new life. The Honeymoon Phase is simply an adjustment period toward full retirement.

Now comes what the MIT Age Lab calls the "Big Decision" Phase (or, a series of big decisions):

1. Will I stay in my current home or move?

If I stay in my current home:

  • What structural updates will I need to make?
  • If I don't own my home outright, how much longer will it take for me to pay off my mortgage?
  • If I should become less able to do household chores, who will help me?

If I've decided I am going to move into a new home:

  • When exactly will I move?
  • Do I buy or rent?
  • How many family members beside me will be relocating to this new home?
  • Will I move closer to family, to a warmer climate, or to a smaller home?
  • Will I have easy access to transportation?

2. What will be my purpose?

People who have a purpose tend to adjust better than those who live as if every day is a Saturday. Some replace work with travel and hobbies. According to MIT, the happiest retirees spend their free time giving back.

However, avoid rushing into too many volunteer activities. Instead take time to explore what might be the most meaningful and interesting to you, such as signing up for an art class; taking music lessons; teaching as an adjunct professor; mentoring students; or even starting a new career.

Ask yourself:

  • What types of arts and culture would I be interested in participating?
  • What kinds of volunteer opportunities in educational settings does my town or city offer?
  • What types of outdoor activities interest me?
  • If I have connections with a faith-based organization, how could I become more involved?
  • Are there children I could help care for in my spare time?
  • Are there civic organizations in my local community that I'd like to be involved with?

As mentioned in our first two blogs, visit and for ideas and help putting your thoughts and wishes into an action plan.

Being clear and confident about money is a crucial step in a wonderful retirement vision. Make sure to work with your financial advisor on goal setting, budgeting and a retirement income stream that outpaces taxes and inflation. Also make sure to review your health care proxy, durable power of attorney and advanced health care directives, to close any trap doors that your money could escape from.

In Part Four, we will examine the “Solo Journey Phase” of retirement, where people may find themselves alone and frightened, or a phase that may ultimately open doors to new life experiences.