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4 Ways to Test Out Your Retirement Game Plan

Sep 08, 2020 3 min read Kate Ashford

Key Takeaways

  • Test-drive a target location with an extended vacay.
  • Start that side business to see if it really twirls your baton.
  • Living within your post-career means might shock you. Or not.


Okay, say you’ve spent decades as a diligent, strategic saver. And while there’s still time to go, you can finally see the outlines of retirement on your horizon. It’s so close, in fact, that you’re starting to think about turning your dreams into plans. Maybe that’ll mean opening a B&B in that mountainside village you love. Or becoming a beach bum (or scratch golfer) in a warmer clime. Or imbuing young minds with your passion for Renaissance art. Or simply giving back to your community.

Whatever your retirement dreams, understand this:



Once in retirement, people often learn that the reality of these lifestyles isn’t quite what they expected. Indeed, fewer than half of retirees call their post-career lives “very satisfying,” according to a 2016 study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute Opens in new window—and more than one in 10 say it’s “not at all satisfying.”

Thankfully, retirement doesn’t have to be a complete shock to the system. There are a variety of ways to give your future game plan a try to make sure it measures up:

Take a vacation test-drive

Many people envision moving somewhere else when they’re older and grayer. But how much research have you done on the location you’re targeting? Do you know what it’s like in the off season? Have you considered what it will be like to be far from friends and family?

If you have the means, rent a house or apartment in your locale of choice for an extended period; this way, you can try it out before you make a permanent move. If your profession allows it, work remotely from there. Your future retired self will thank you for doing the legwork.


Volunteer in advance

Maybe you picture spending your retirement hours doing good works for your favorite charitable groups. But you can start in on volunteering even before you retire. Consider offering up some of your evenings and weekends so you can get a feel for how volunteering works and whether you enjoy it. You can also take this time to try out different charities to see which may be the right fit for you.

Go ahead and start that business

If you’re thinking your retirement will be about reinvention—you’ll finally turn that hobby into a money-making venture—you’ll want to get a jump start. Sometimes turning a pastime into a business can backfire; maybe you won’t really enjoy knitting baby hats when you’re doing it 30 to 40 hours a week. But there’s no way to know that unless you start monetizing that side gig now. If it turns out that moneymaking kills the magic, you can make other plans.

Live on your retirement budget

Making ends meet on your retirement savings feels like a fuzzy hypothetical until you actually have to do it. Determine how much money you’ll have coming in and going out, then adopt that budget for several months—or even a year or more. Is it feasible, or do you feel squeezed from every angle? It could be that you need to save more or work for a few more years to live the lifestyle you want, and it’s better to know that before you are actually retired.


What you can do next

Even if your funding is in order, you might find that what you dreamed you'd do with your nest egg isn't all it was cracked up to be. To separate romance from reality (and change course before best-laid plans become a bust), try out retirement before you retire.


Kate Ashford is a freelance journalist who writes about personal finance, work and consumer trends. She has written for the BBC, Forbes, LearnVest, Money, Real Simple and Parents, among others.


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