A couple of years ago, my then 39-year-old brother, our divorced mom, and I went on a tropical vacation in Hawaii. The trip coincided with my mother, in her late ‘60s, entering semi-retirement. After working two full-time jobs as a nurse for over 25 years, she was scaling back on her hours and working at a convalescent home in a Los Angeles suburb. About a month or so into that, I saw a more relaxed version of my mom, as she eased into her slower pace of life.
That had me thinking about what my mom envisioned retirement life to be like, and how I, her mid-thirties daughter, could help her turn the idea into reality. We were lounging on Lanikai Beach in Oahu, when I turned to my mother and asked: “What are you going to do with your free time, mom?” She paused, then answered, “Whatever I want!”
Your adult children may be busy with their careers, raising families and carving out their own paths, but they may also want to assist with your retirement plans. (In the past few years, my brother and I have tried to spend more time with our parents — who came to the U.S. in the ‘70s — to learn more about their retirement needs.)
Here are three ways you and they can make your transition what you’d like it to be:
1. Talk Openly About Your Hopes for Retirement
When your child was younger, he or she may have wistfully told you about wanting to attend a pricey liberal arts school across the country. Or maybe you heard a not-so-subtle hint on the type of car your son or daughter hoped you could provide as a graduation gift. Now it’s your turn to express your wants.
What you thought you wanted out of retirement five years ago may not hold true today. Let your children know how your plans have changed since the last time you talked to them about this. The clearer and more specific your goals, the better. That’ll pave the path on how they can get help with logistics.
In my case, I’ve asked my mom and my dad (an engineering drafting technician in Los Angeles) things like: When do you plan on retiring? And when you do retire, do you plan on working in some capacity? Do you plan on moving, and if so, where? What would be your reasons for moving? What kind of hobbies would you like to pursue? What would add value to your life? And conversely, what would detract from it?
I’ve also asked them: If my brother or I were to have children, would you be up for babysitting?
As a single person without children, I’ve told my parents that I have the time and ability to help. If my mom plans on moving to another part of the country or to a community, as she has considered, I’d help as best as I could transitioning to her new home.
2. Include Your Adult Children in Your Plans
My dad, now in his early 70s, has pushed back his retirement date several times; currently, it’s slated for the end of 2019. As I’m a writer myself, I’ve talked to him about helping with his memoir once he retires. To show my support for his writing aspirations, I plan to give him some books on the craft.
My mom has talked about wanting to spend more time volunteering with the homeless and possibly in third-world countries in health services. So we signed up to volunteer at a food pantry near her house in the LA suburbs. Volunteering now is a great way for her to meet people. Plus, it would help my mom explore options to see what kind of volunteering she would like to pursue in retirement. Volunteering together is quality time that we both enjoy.
Even if your kids don’t live nearby or are busy tending to their families, if you’d like them to be more involved in your life once you retire, talk to them about this. Communication is a two-way street, and while your adult children may not be able to accommodate your wishes 100 percent, it doesn’t hurt to see how they respond. They can always try to meet you halfway.
Your grown children can also help you research places to live in retirement. They can do find out about specific communities and homes there that could be a good fit for your preferences, needs, and lifestyle.
If working during retirement is what you want to do, your kids can help you search for part-time job opportunities.
They can also help find ways to help you cultivate interests and hobbies, whether that’s painting, Salsa dancing or Tai Chi.
3. Have a ‘Real Talk’ About Estate Planning and Caregiving
Your grown children can also help out with serious matters such as estate planning and caregiving. That’s something that weighs heavily on my mind and something I am seeking clarity about.
Since my dad has remarried, I’m not as concerned with his needs if he falls ill, since he’ll have his wife by his side. I anticipate being more hands-on with my mom, because she is single. My brother and I plan on sitting down with my mom to see if she’d want her grown children to care for her in case if she’s unable to live independently. I’d also like to know that she has designated power of attorney. These are touchy, somber subjects. But I’d much rather deal with any potential rough patches and suss things out now than wait until the 11th hour.
It’s important to sit down with your kids so you both can air out any concerns about your estate and caregiving needs. Be specific about how you would like them to be involved. I know that I’ll feel that much better knowing what my mom’s wishes and expectations are.
By talking openly with your grown kids about your visions for retirement, you’ll take out the guesswork for them. In turn, that’ll help them understand and support your aspirations.
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