Navigating your first year in retirement

Like most Americans, you’ve probably spent years working to achieve the retirement of your dreams. Then there comes a point when this career milestone changes from a distant goal to an imminent reality.

You can make your first year away from work more rewarding and less stressful when you take the time to anticipate potential challenges and prepare for how you will handle this important life change.

Your state of mind

In your first weeks as a new retiree, it’s normal to feel both excitement and trepidation. You’re eager for more time to connect with friends and family, and to do the activities you love.

Stepping away from your career also can reduce your stress level and free you from the burden of having competing priorities. However, saying goodbye to your workplace, business associates, day-to-day responsibilities and regular paycheck might trigger anxiety and sadness.

This is especially true for those who’ve enjoyed their professional status and fulfilling career.

If your spouse or significant other already is at home, either as a homemaker or first retiree, recognize that your new lifestyle might cause similar emotions for this person.

Imagine your reaction if he or she were retiring to your “office.” The change would mean a departure from your schedule and habits, even if it means more time together.

For those experiencing mixed feelings, it’s helpful to acknowledge them, to yourself and a partner or trusted friend. Remind yourself why you chose to retire and remember all that you accomplished to reach this point.

Your purpose

With your calendar clear of work obligations, it’s important to identify a few ways to fill your time.

To start, keep the promises you’ve made to yourself, your spouse or others about what your retirement will include. For example, if you’ve promised distant relatives that you’ll reconnect, then organize a reunion. Set a date to fulfill your dream of visiting France’s wine country or find an instructor who can teach you to play the piano.

Alternatively, you might decide to pursue an encore career, part-time job or an opportunity to open a business.

With all your new possibilities, it’s important to avoid overcommitting yourself. Give yourself some breathing room in each day and ease into volunteer organizations or activities. Now that you have the freedom to do so, be sure that you’re choosing to spend your time in ways that are most gratifying to you.

Your finances

Adjusting your mindset from building your nest egg to spending it can be challenging. To make your initiation to retiree life easier, create a plan for how you will pay yourself in retirement.

Start by tallying your income sources before determining which ones you’ll tap into first. Next, estimate your cash flow for year one. Planning this in advance can help ease worries and reduce your risk of overspending.

As a benchmark, have enough cash to cover three years of potential unexpected expenses. Once you’re in retirement, monitor your cash reserves regularly to gauge your spending and make adjustments as needed.

If you’re uneasy or need reassurance that your income and cash flow plans are sufficient, meet with a financial adviser. Together you can look at the impact of taxes, evaluate your portfolio diversification and prepare for the legacy you’d like to leave your community and family.

Becoming a retiree means enduring a lot of change. Although you can’t prepare for every challenge and opportunity you might face in your first year, planning for what you can control allows you to move into this new life stage with confidence.