Two years ago, my then 39-year-old brother, mom and I went on a vacation in Hawaii (my parents are divorced and my dad has since remarried). The trip coincided with my mom, then in her late ‘60s, entering semi-retirement. After working two full-time jobs as a nurse for over 25 years, she was scaling back and working four shifts a week at a nursing home in the Los Angeles suburbs. About a month into that, I saw a more relaxed version of my mom as she eased into her slower pace of life.
That also had me thinking about what she envisioned life in retirement to be like and how I — her then 35-year-old, single, childless daughter — could help her turn that into a reality.
I want to know how my parents envision their retirement, because I want to do all I can to ensure they continue living richly during these years.
We were lounging on the pristine, white sands of Lanikai Beach on the North Shore of 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!”
How Your Adult Kids Can Help You Transition to Retirement
Your grown children may be busy with their careers, raising families and carving out their own paths, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be involved with your retirement plans. Here are three ways your adult kids can help you transition into retirement and find new purpose in this stage of your life:
1. Talk openly with your grown children about your hopes for retirement. When your kids were high schoolers, they may have wistfully wanted to attend that pricey liberal arts school across the country. Or maybe they dropped not-so-subtle hints on the type of car they hoped you’d give them at graduation. Now it’s your turn to express your wants.
For his retirement, my dad — an engineering drafting technician in his early 70s — has entertained notions of returning to Oahu, where he went to graduate school; working a part-time job; catching up on his reading and possibly working on a memoir. My mom, while strong-willed, independent and opinionated, remains ambiguous about how she wants to spend her retirement.
I want to know how my parents envision their retirement, because I want to do all I can to ensure they continue living richly during these years. And I realize their hopes and dreams may not be what they were a few years ago.
Let your children know how your retirement plans have changed since the last time you talked to them about them. The more specific your goals, the better. That will pave the path for how they may be able to help you with any logistics.
I’ve asked my parents things like: when do they plan on retiring; whether they plan on working in some capacity; if they expect to move, and if so, where and why. I’ve also inquired about the kind of hobbies they’d like to pursue. And, I asked, “If my brother or I were to have children, would you be up for babysitting?”
Finally, I’ve told my parents to tell me what would add value to their life in retirement. And what would detract from it?
Since I don’t have a partner or kids, I’ve been very transparent to my parents in explaining that I have the time, and am available, to help. I’m fortunate to live within an hour of both my parents and have some flexibility (looming deadlines aside) in my schedule.
2. Include your adult children in your plans. In recent years, my brother and I have spent more time with our parents to learn what we could about their retirement needs.
As I’m a writer myself, I’ve talked to my dad about helping him with his memoir once he retires. Until then, I make a point to get lunch with him in downtown LA, where he works. To show my support for his writing aspirations, I plan to gift him some books on the craft.
My mom has entertained the thought about moving to Florida, swimming laps at a local pool and wanting to spend more time volunteering with the homeless. She has also thought of possibly living in third-world countries to be a health services volunteer.
A year ago, we signed up to volunteer at a food pantry near her house. Volunteering is a great way for her to meet people. Plus, it helps her explore options to see what kind of volunteering she’d like to pursue in retirement. Volunteering together lets us spend quality time together.
If my mom winds up moving to another part of the country or to a retirement community locally, I’d help as best as I could transitioning to her new home.
Talk to your grown kids about how you’d like them to be more involved in your life once you retire, if that’s the case. Would you be up for helping out with babysitting? Would you like to hop on a Skype call regularly? Or perhaps you’d like to visit them a few times a year.
Communication is a two-way street, and while your adult children may not be able to accommodate your wishes 100%, it doesn’t hurt to see how they’d respond. They can always try to meet you halfway.
Grown children can also help their parents research places to live in retirement. They can look into specific cities, communities, and homes that would be a better fit for their parents’ preferences, needs and lifestyle.
If working during retirement is what you want to do, your kids might be able to help you search part-time job opportunities.
They can also look for ways to help you cultivate any interests and hobbies.
3. Have a “real” talk about estate planning and caregiving. Those topics weigh heavily on my mind. I’m a firstborn Vietnamese American, with parents who came to the U.S. in the ‘70s, so I know there are cultural differences and expectations in my role as caretaker to my parents.
Since my dad has remarried, I’m not as concerned with his needs in case he falls ill; he’ll have his wife by his side. I anticipate being more hands-on with my mom’s needs, since she is single.
My brother and I plan on sitting down with my mom soon to discuss these issues. I wonder if she would like her grown children to care for her if she’s not able to live independently. I’d also like to know that she has designated a power of attorney if someone needs to step in and manage her finances.
These are touchy, somber subjects and could lead to some feelings of guilt or disappointment, especially if you and your grow kids don’t see eye-to-eye. But I’d much rather suss things out now than wait until it’s an emergency situation.
Sit down with your kids to air out concerns about your estate and what will happen if you fall ill. Talk to them about how you would like them to be involved. I know I would feel much better knowing what my mom’s wishes and expectations are.
Retirement is a new chapter in your life. Your needs and wants are evolving. In turn, the nature of your relationship with your kids may change, too. By talking openly with them, you’ll take out the guesswork for them. And that will help them support your aspirations in retirement.