Retirement Fun Ahead: Planning for the Future of Retirement

by Megan Nye | May 16, 2018

Traditional retirement looks something like this: After working loyally for decades as a company employee, you are gifted a watch, thrown a festive farewell party and you look forward to a next chapter filled with new activities — and no work.

Currently, many retirees are sticking with tradition, notes Meghan Murphy, who analyzes retirement-savings trends for an investment firm. Referencing the results of a recent study, Murphy shares that the average retirement age has been holding steady for the last 10 years at age 62. But Murphy also foresees changes with the next generation; she notes an increasing trend in clients who talk about continuing work and setting new professional goals during retirement.

Some pioneering retirees are already shaking up their lifestyles and challenging retirement norms. The Employment Benefit Research Institute 2017 Retirement Confidence Study shows that Americans preparing for retirement are doing things differently: retiring later, staying active and even working flex jobs.

If you’re planning to exit (or gradually retreat from) the workforce in 30 or so years, your golden years could be a chance to switch industries — and have fun doing it. Here’s a look at how you can start planning your own unique future life after retirement.

How the new retirement looks

For Stephanie Bell, a 51-year-old from Lexington, KY, a happy retirement meant going into business for herself. After 25 years as a state worker tackling tough regulatory and legislative issues, she retired and established Bell Consulting, an energy consulting firm that leverages her decades of experience in that field. Embracing another passion of hers, Bell also launched Fancy Derby Hats, a business that sells women’s designer hats for the Kentucky Derby. Now that she’s in retirement, she finally has the flexibility to focus on her small business.

Joy Jones, a 63-year-old resident of Washington, DC, retired from her community relations position at a hospital two years ago. She’s currently working on writing and publishing a book about public speaking. To further supplement her retirement income, Jones takes on freelance writing assignments and works part-time at her local library. Plus, she co-founded the DC Retro Jumpers, a Double Dutch jump-roping club for women 50 and older. For Jones, retirement is much more than a long stretch of leisure time — it’s an opportunity to pursue exciting interests that she could only dabble in while she was working full-time.  

‘Rolling’ with it

As evidenced by both Bell and Jones, retirement is becoming less of a line in the sand and more of a process. In fact, the idea of a “rolling retirement” — easing slowly out of the 9-to-5 life into partial retirement — is gaining popularity. Many retirees plan to continue working at least part-time in retirement. Some are looking to increase their disposable income, some wish to keep active or pursue interests and others are choosing to work as volunteers for organizations they value.

Employers are lending a hand. “We are seeing employers implement programs where people go from a 30-hour work week to a 20-hour work week and then transition out,” Murphy says. “We’re also seeing employers who are identifying volunteer opportunities for these transitioning employees in their local communities, working on specific topics.”

“Encore careers” like Bell’s and Jones’ new ventures are likewise gaining popularity. Rather than shutting the door on the corporate world, some retirees seek employment in exciting new fields, while others launch businesses that capitalize on the skills and experience they’ve acquired. And they fill their extra time with active social groups, travel, increased family time, devotion to hobbies and more.

The new retirement is vibrant and focused on creating a fulfilling lifestyle plan that will enrich retirees’ golden years. By setting your sights on retirement early, you too can plan ahead for your own modern retirement.

Stephanie Bell on the beach with penguins

Designing your own retirement plan

How can you start creating an action plan for your own retirement decades down the road? The right strategy includes both financial planning and a blueprint for your future lifestyle. Follow these five steps to get started on planning your retirement:

  • Envision the future. Take some time to reflect on what achievable goals you'd like to work toward in retirement. What activities or professional opportunities will you pursue? What elements of your current life do you love and want to maintain? What's missing from your life now that you want to incorporate into your retirement?


  • Evaluate your assets. Do a complete assessment of what liquid, property, retirement and other assets you have right now. Be sure to also factor in your debts, both present and future, and subtract any assets you plan to leave as part of your legacy. This will help give you a realistic idea of how much you’ll have to live on, so you can figure out how much you want (or need) to earn in retirement. Figure out exactly when you hope to retire and how you might transition out of the workforce. Consider working with a financial advisor to devise a savings and investment plan that will get you to go your goal.


  • Estimate your retirement expenses. This exercise can be challenging when retirement is still far off. Be sure to consider what current expenses you’ll no longer need to pay (such as childcare or mortgage payments) and what new costs you could incur (like additional medical care, insurance or travel expenses).


  • Create a plan. Create a lifestyle plan that will prepare you for that time of your life. Do you plan to work part time? Open your own business? Travel? Volunteer? You may need to earn a degree, build a website or learn a new skill. Embrace the potential for change and growth.


  • Track your progress. At least once a year, look over your retirement plan. Is it still realistic? Are you on schedule? According to Murphy, roughly one-third of current retirees wish they had saved more or started earlier. “Small amounts put in today over 40 years really can add up,” she states. Adjust your payments as needed in order to reach your future objectives.
Roughly one-third of current retirees wish they had saved more or started earlier.
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Preparing for bumps in the road

By creating and sticking to a realistic retirement plan, you’re putting yourself way ahead of the game. But never forget the element of uncertainty — there is a lot about the future that you just can’t plan for. You may face market downturns, unexpected job loss, health problems and more, which may drastically affect your finances and lifestyle.

But the decades ahead can also be your greatest ally. With time on your side, you’ll be better poised to overcome investment dips, tweak your savings strategy, and even re-plan your retirement if your situation or desires change. Here are a few ways to protect yourself against the unexpected:

  • Build a financial buffer. Overestimate your expenses later in life and assume that the market returns may fluctuate. Then incorporate a time buffer. Plan to work longer than you hope to in the event that you need those extra years of income.


  • Decrease the uncertainty of future costs. Protect your family by carrying critical policies for health, disability and life insurance. And keep in mind that a stay in a nursing home can put a serious dent in your retirement nest egg. Consider purchasing long-term care insurance when you reach your 60th birthday. Having this coverage in place will take a big bite out of the uncertainty of your future healthcare costs.


  • Consider enlisting a professional. Find a financial advisor who can help you reach your unique goals. The right advisor will look at your entire financial picture to give you meaningful projections and point you toward the most appropriate investments.
Overestimate your expenses later in life and assume that the market returns may fluctuate.
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Even if you plan to keep working well past retirement age, it’s never too early to start planning. By envisioning what you want and creating a feasible financial plan for attaining it, you can make the most out of your retirement years.

Megan Nye

is a personal finance freelance writer. Her writing has been published by Business Insider, Credit Karma, Lending Tree, U.S. News & World Report, Personal Capital and Northwestern Mutual.