For most of us educated, financially-savvy people, we’ve been planning for retirement for almost as long as we’ve been working.
Whether through an IRA or a 401(k) or other savings fund, you’ve worked hard and saved your pennies for the retirement that you deserve.
The problem is, though, that while most of have worked to prepare for retirement financially, we’re missing a very crucial step that hugely impacts our quality of life in retirement!
We all learned about the importance of saving for retirement, whether we heard about it from our parents, in school, or not until we had our first job.
Regardless of where we got that education, most of us are all-too-aware of the financial burden retirement can have, and the importance of preparing for it.
While having your finances in order and plenty of savings is crucial to a successful and happy retirement not spent working or worrying, money is not the only thing that we need to prepare for as we enter retirement.
No one could say money isn’t important, especially in retirement, but what arguably affects you greater in your day-to-day are your relationships.
Now, you might feel an urge to shrug that off, but the importance of socializing and having close relationships in retirement is again and again underestimated and often forgotten until it’s too late.
I don’t mean it’s too late and you’ll never be able to build meaningful relationships, that would be ridiculous.
But not fully appreciating and understanding the importance of cultivating meaningful relationships in retirement can be very detrimental to you.
You’ve probably heard about the importance of socializing and engaging with your community before, but this becomes especially crucial in retirement.
The Stanford Center on Longevity has confirmed that social engagement promotes physical and mental health, while social isolation leads to personal and medical problems.
In fact, the study found that socially-isolated individuals face health risks that are comparable to those of a smoker!
So, while it might be easy to shrug off the personal benefits of meeting up with friends for lunch, you can’t simply ignore health benefits (and problems!) related to social engagement.
Retirement is a massive transition in your life—it’s something you’ve never done before, a whole new chapter that you’ve never experienced.
It can be easy to think that sound and impressive financial savings and planning will allow you to transition as smoothly as possible and live your best retired life, but the truth is that money isn’t what’s going to get you out of the house and enjoying life.
Money can facilitate that, of course, but it won’t create it.
Having close and meaningful relationships with people you can interact with on a regular basis benefits your health and actually increases your life expectancy.
Now, I’m not just discussing these things to stress you out or put a burden on you.
Hopefully, you realize the importance of social engagement in retirement, and now I have some easy ways for you to make it happen!
Usually what comes to retirees’ minds first is the time they’ll spend with their spouse, and all the additional time they’ll know get to spend with their children and grandchildren or other family.
While retirement certainly provides you the flexibility to do that, your adult children are likely at a stage in their lives where they may not be able to accommodate all of your new free time the way that you’d like.
Additionally, it’s important to socialize with your peers, particularly in retirement, it can be helpful to have people going through the same transitions as you.
An easy first step to that is getting to know your neighbors, particularly if you’ve recently moved into a new community.
Make an effort to go out of your way to get to know them, even if it’s just little moments, like catching up when you get the mail.
If you already know your neighbors well, make more of an effort to see them and socialize.
Suggest they come over for dinner one night a week or start a game night.
As silly as those suggestions may seem, I think you’ll be surprised by the benefits and how good you feel afterwards.
In addition to getting to know your neighbors better, start volunteering.
If you’re wary of that, just start slowly, volunteering at a community center once a month.
Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to find various volunteering opportunities in your community, and you can often choose form dozens of different categories based on your preferences.
If you enjoy being around children, there are thousands of programs for tutoring, or reading to little kids, or helping out at preschools.
If you have a passion for helping those less fortunate, you can volunteer at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, or even join a laundry volunteer service, where you do laundry for those without access to resources or amenities to help them live healthier and more comfortable lives.
Volunteering and giving back to your community has been shown again and again to improve people’s quality of life significantly.
While embarking on the next chapter of your life into retirement can be daunting, having a great support system and people to engage with can make it the best time of your life!