Every parent will have their own unique experience after their kids leave home. Some may see it as a time to pursue new interests and reconnect with themselves, others may need some time to adjust to the change. It’s natural to have a mix of emotions after kids fly the coop. It’s also an opportunity to focus on the next phase of your life.
Preparing for your future can entail many things, from career shifts to traveling to estate planning. Here are seven things to think about as you enter (or are about to enter) this new life stage.
1. Figure out your retirement goals
Now that you're an empty nester, retirement might be right around the corner. Start getting retirement ready by thinking about what you want your post-work life to look like. Maybe you’d like to spend your time traveling around the world or playing your favorite sport. Whatever your dream, it’s important that you have sufficient funds to make these goals a reality.
You may want to consider looking into some passive income streams to boost your retirement savings. You could also consider contributing to a tax-advantaged retirement account to help build your nest egg.
It may be a good idea to consult with a financial advisor during this time. A financial advisor can help you determine where your finances currently stand and how to get them to align with your goals. When calculating your retirement income, make sure to factor in your savings, 401(k), Social Security, and any other assets.
2. Create or update your estate planning documents
If you or your spouse don’t currently have a will, trust, or other estate planning documents written out, then now may be a good time to create an estate plan.
A thorough estate plan identifies beneficiaries, creates healthcare directives, and establishes a power of attorney, for example. It may be beneficial to enlist the help of an estate planning attorney who can help you understand your options.
Once you've assembled an experienced team of professionals, you can start outlining your wishes in your last will and testament. Also consider what types of trusts you may need, how you’ll plan for federal and state taxes, if you’ll need to prepare for long-term care services, and other estate planning decisions.
If you’ve already taken the steps to plan your estate, it can be a good time to review existing documents and see if you’d like to make any updates.
3. Seek out new career opportunities or hobbies
You may find that you have more time to pursue a new career or explore your interests. For some, a career change or new business venture could be fulfilling.
Ask yourself if you want to grow in your current career or pursue something completely new. Maybe you want to open your own business or dedicate your time to a nonprofit. Whatever it is, seek out opportunities that allow you to grow both in your professional and personal life.
Also consider pursuing new hobbies. It can be a great way to meet new people, develop a skill set, or simply do what you’ve always wanted to do.
4. Prioritize your health
After your brood leaves home, age-related health issues may begin to arise — as most empty nesters are in their 40s, 50s, or 60s.1 It’s important to tend to your physical and mental health during this time.
Find ways to be more active, like taking daily walks or going to the gym. It’s also important to schedule preventative health checks and annual health screenings with your doctor. It may also be a good time to consider purchasing supplemental health insurance, as you may have unforeseen expenses from medical issues.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. With the kids out of the house, you may be feeling overwhelmed, lonely, or depressed. In this case, seeking the help of a professional, like a therapist, can be beneficial. Consider mindful meditation or yoga to ease the effects of empty nest syndrome.
5. Find new ways to connect with your spouse or reconnect with old friends
An empty nest could give you and your spouse new opportunities to connect and reinvent your relationship, whether it means you finally go on the trip you’ve been dreaming of, or you can pick up a new hobby to explore together.
Reinvesting in old friendships (and making new ones) is a great way to nurture your social life, too. Research has shown that socializing can improve your mental health and possibly lower your risk for developing dementia.2
6. Adopt or foster a pet
With more space in your home and additional free time, adopting a pet can be a fun and meaningful way to fill an empty nest. Plus, introducing a new furry friend into your life has several benefits. Pets can provide lots of love, encourage a more active lifestyle and help curb feelings of loneliness. If you’re not quite ready to take the adoption plunge, maybe fostering a pet or volunteering at an animal shelter is more up your alley.
If you do decide to become a pet parent, you may want to consider purchasing pet insurance. Pet insurance can help protect your pet and alleviate some of the financial burdens of vet bills.
7. Improve your financial wellness
It’s possible that with the kids out of the home, your financial situation may have slightly shifted. Maybe you’re spending less on things like transportation, food, and utilities, and you now have more wiggle room to save and spend. Therefore, this may be a great time to review and revise your budget. Some things you may want to do during this time include examining your fixed and variable expenses and determining your wants and needs. You could also try using a financial wellness app, like Upwise, to better help you manage and monitor your money.
Some empty nesters also consider downsizing to save money on house maintenance, monthly utilities, and property taxes. If that feels too drastic, start with taking stock of all your recurring expenses and figuring out what to cut down. That might be something as simple as dropping a subscription to a streaming service only your kids watched.
A financial advisor can even help you navigate this major life stage and make sure you’re covered in your golden years.