First of all, there is no blueprint for retirement. How this new phase of life is shaped is as varied as the career paths of people before retirement.
Most people start thinking about the next phase of their life by their mid-50s at the latest. If you’re one of them, check out these 15 questions.
1. What do I see and feel when I think of retirement?
Claudia Altmann: Ideally, you always take time to reflect in your life: How are things currently going? Does my job and family life fit together? Am I stuck in a hamster wheel? Do I want to change something? You can certainly question your life - it would be a shame not to realize until retirement that you would have preferred things to be different.
2. At what age can I retire?
WisR: Since 2012, the German government has raised the retirement age from 65 to 67 (starting in 2029). This means: all insured persons born after 1964 will not reach the legal retirement age until they reach the age of 67. There is no difference between women and men. In order to be eligible, insured persons must have in principle paid contributions for five years.
In Austria, the legal retirement age is 65 for men and 60 for women. Starting in 2033, it will be 65 for both men and women. Different online tools are available so you can make these calculations. Ideally, you should think about how to leave the company you work for together with your employer.
3. What will I miss about my working life?
Claudia Altmann: Many people get the feeling in retirement that they are no longer needed. Some feel put on the sidelines, participation in society - a basic human need - diminishes with retirement. But losses are not always pure losses. One should look at all sides and take a holistic view of this stage of life.
4. What do I gain from my pension?
Claudia Altmann: Many people define themselves through their work, which then makes up a large part of their self-worth. But there are also people who are looking forward to their newly gained time by planning trips, taking courses or spending time with their grandchildren.
5. How much money do I receive in retirement and can I get by with this income?
WisR: The total amount you receive from your pension is based on different parameters. You can calculate the expected amount online. According to the German Pension Insurance, on average, the monthly old-age pension at the end of 2018 was 906 euros. While the pension for men was on average 1,148 euros, women only received around 711 euros.
In Austria, at the end of 2018, the average pension for men was 1,966 euros while for women, it was 1,126 according to the Statistics Austria.
As you can see, there is a big pension gap between the sexes, which is due to female employment history: Women often work part-time to raise children, earn less (due to the aforementioned but also because of the gender pay gap), and there are less women in well-paid managerial positions. As a result, female pensioners living alone are more often at risk of living in poverty.
6. Do I want to continue working - paid or unpaid?
Claudia Altmann: I think it is important - also from a psychological point of view - that older people have the opportunity to continue working. They will then be integrated and not isolated. Younger people will also benefit from working with older people. Nowadays, job training is becoming shorter and shorter, job descriptions are often vague - many younger people want mentors to draw from valuable experience. When several generations work together, a mutual appreciation develops. This kind of exchange is also important for mental health. A task - even if it is only for a few hours a week - where you feel needed can be extremely enriching.
7. What other purpose in life do I have besides work?
Claudia Altmann: Some people work as long as they can and even postpone their retirement. They then often experience a shock when they realize from one day to the next that they have to work because they have nothing else to live for besides work.
WisR: This is known as pension shock. If you start early enough with your retirement, occupy yourself, and identify what is valuable for your own life, you can counteract it.
8. How do I want to spend my first six month in retirement?
WisR: You finally have the time for the things that you’ve been neglecting in everyday working life. Experts advise you to create a new daily routine and to continue to devote yourself to exciting tasks - this can be simply reading books or cooking.
9. How will my relationship change? Will my partner also retire soon?
Claudia Altmann: When one partner or both retire, it is often a difficult situation for couples. You are used to having a consistent schedule, going to work, and having these kinds of distractions from your relationship. Suddenly, you are spending all of your time together. If both of you retire, you need to build a new structure together.
10. What could make my family happy if I had more time?
WisR: Maybe you now have the opportunity to do something for others. Planting the garden in your daughter's house or giving guitar lessons that you once promised your grandson a long time ago.
11. What could be challenging for my family?
WisR: You should also consider what effects your own retirement could have on others. Putting yourself in the shoes of your family members often brings new, helpful insights.
12. What relationships do I want to dedicate myself to?
WisR: On the one hand, you have more time for family and friends. But maybe you would also like to stay in touch with old work colleagues or customers. You can also build new relationships in clubs or as a mentor.
13. Which experiences have I repeatedly postponed and saved for retirement?
WisR: The classic one. What can you finally afford now? Material things are not necessarily the main focus of this question - maybe you now have the time to learn Spanish, the flute or finish the photo project that you’ve always been putting off.
14. What else do I want to learn?
WisR: In Germany and Austria, thousands of senior citizens are studying. There are even special courses and academies for senior talents. In German universities all over the country, there are around 40,000 senior talents auditing classes - twice as many as 10 years ago. The Academic Association for Seniors offers a portal Senioren-Studium.de which includes a study guide for latecomers. At the University of Hamburg, for example, there are programs without age restrictions, admission requirements, or examinations! The University of Vienna has now even launched the "Studium Generale" for the post-professional phase. Applications for the winter semester of 2020/21 are currently open.
15. How do I NOT want to live?
Claudia Altmann: There are people who do not reflect upon their life. They work - and that often works well for them. But for mental health it makes sense to question things. This gives you the freedom to choose.