With any luck and a good map, we are all on the road to retirement. I recently arrived in this special place – 3 months and 29 days ago – but who’s counting? Yes, I left my day job after a 43-year career in health care. As with any major life change, there are several things to consider regarding your quality of life. Good quality of life and good health go hand in hand.
The average age of the American trucker is 55 years old, so many truckers who are still working are considerably older than 55. Being a part of this industry, you have heard about the enormous shortage of drivers now, as many have left because of insufficient income and others because of age. There has been talk over the past decade of a mandatory retirement age of 65 for truckers, although nothing has come of it yet. There are issues that might come up making you have to retire before you really want to, such as health problems, for example. But, thinking about your eventual retirement now can help keep you healthier down the road.
According to some experts, retirement is among the ten most stressful events, but remember that not all stressors are negative. There are many factors to take into consideration about retirement. If you’re one of those folks, like me, who didn’t work for the same company for forty years and, therefore, doesn’t have a pension, you need to save money. Financial strain is a negative stressor, so you want to avoid that as much as possible (this is so much easier said than done, but absolutely essential). Most of us are not going to want to live on Social Security alone. And, even when you reach age 65 and are eligible for Medicare (government-sponsored health insurance we are all required to sign up for), it doesn’t pay for everything. The individual still has to pick up some of the tab.
Read up now on saving and investing so you’ll have enough money to live on once you finally stop working. All the retirement planning folks tell you to plan to have enough money to live to the age of 95, so start putting those pennies in the jar and investing so your money will grow ASAP. If you have the option to send money directly to a bank account so you never see it in your hand, saving will be less painful than if you have to actually deposit it in the bank instead of spending it on something you want.
Many people wonder, “How am I going to spend my day if I’m not working?” This can be really frightening for some people. Over the years, many folks are so focused on their work that they don’t have time for outside interests. Work is the only thing they know how to do. If you are one of those people, start thinking now about all those things you would love to do if only you had the time. Always wanted to learn to sail? Travel? Knit? Learn another language? Archery? Drink coffee with friends every morning? Sing? Act? Spend more time with your family? Be an extra in a movie? Whatever! Make a list of all the things that you think you might want to do one day, if you had the extra time, that interest you.
In retirement, you finally have the time to get involved in your long-awaited hobby – whatever that turns out to be. I don’t have any grandkids, so the first thing I signed up for was rocking babies who have to stay in the hospital intensive care unit for long periods of time without their parents. The babies love it, the nurses are so grateful for my help, and I get to go home a hero every time. Boy, let me tell you, that does feel good!
What if you are bored? You can always go back to work! There are lots of people who enjoy a year or two of doing nothing, then they find a job that doesn’t require lots of commitment or education to fill their days – and their pockets – and go back to work, either full or part time (some even start a second career).
Some worry about how their health might change after they retire. That is, of course, different for each and every individual. The older we get, the more risk of chronic disease we have. One thing that might make a big difference, though, is having more time in retirement to change up the way you currently take care of yourself. For example, truckers eat in truck stops – not the most nutritious food, usually. When you have more time, you can spend some of it cooking at home. You save a bundle and can eat meals that are better for you.
Right after laughter, food is the best medicine. Fast food and snacks usually contain way too many calories and chemicals, so cooking for yourself can also help you lose weight – obesity is a major health problem for many truckers. Now that you won’t have to be on someone else’s schedule, you can plan time to go for a walk every day. I love to dance, so, after sitting at a desk talking to patients and students for many years, I signed up for a Zumba class with some other retired friends, and it’s been fabulous! And, these health habit changes help stave off the boredom we talked about earlier, too. You can plan to exercise on certain days, volunteer on others, or hang out with friends or at home enjoying the company of others or solitude. The sky is the limit!
I know it’s hard to imagine retiring if you are still a young person, but I can promise you, that won’t last forever. Even if you are only in your 20s or 30s, start saving now, even if it’s just a small amount every paycheck. Make it like brushing your teeth or putting fuel in your tank – something that HAS to be done. There was a time I couldn’t imagine not working, but that, too, will change for most of us. The less financial strain you face, the more relaxed, happy and healthy you will be when you make that final run and arrive at your retirement destination!