You’ve likely been planning for your retirement for years or even decades, but it’s not clear to everyone exactly how to retire—especially where to begin.
Your retirement process starts as you wind down your career and look to take advantage of any employer retiree health care benefits—make sure to understand everything that’s available to you.
Officially, you’ll start the retirement process with your employer, letting them know when you plan to stop working. Depending on your employer and your tenure, you may need to write an official letter of resignation, document your contacts, processes, and files, and maybe even train a replacement. It’s likely they’ll be happy to work with you to ensure a smooth process for everyone involved.
You’ll need to decide what to do with your workplace savings plan, something a financial planner can help with. If you have a health savings account (HSA), you can keep that through retirement, whether you choose to leave it where it is or transfer your balance to another account provider.
Knowing your pension options is also important. If you have a defined benefit plan, you may need to choose between taking a lump sum distribution or monthly payments.
You may have work to transition to colleagues as you plan your exit, and you may need a succession plan even if you aren’t an executive. Make sure your processes and procedures are documented and easy to follow. It can also be a good idea to document less tactical information. You may have built valuable relationships and institutional knowledge that may be worth passing on as well.
Consider breaking the news about your retirement in person to those you’ve worked closely with. Sending a thoughtful, personalized note to people can be a good idea as well.
Make sure you have ways to keep in touch with your contacts. Whether it’s email or social media, your contacts may come in handy as you embark on your next chapter. In some cases, employers bring back retired employees on a contract basis so it may be good to keep some doors open.
Work provides structure and meaning to life for many, so you may need to be ready to create a new purpose—once your main career ends, there might be some empty spaces to fill where work used to be.
Take some time to think about how you can recreate the best parts of working. For instance, you may thrive on routine and structure, so making sure to schedule your days with predictable activities may help you transition to life after work. Or you may get the most satisfaction from helping people and feeling needed. In that case, it may be a good idea to look for volunteer opportunities that could put your skills to use.
It may take some time before you find your place so it can make sense to think about what you want to do in retirement well before your last day at work.