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Does retirement seem like a death sentence to you?

Strange isn't it? We work our whole life in anticipation and preparation for the day we can trade-in punching a time clock for leisurely bliss.

But, when that time finally arrives, it can seem a little daunting. Is there life after career?

People are living longer, so traditional perceptions about retirement are changing. In many cases, we need to work a few years longer to achieve the financial security we require for our senior years.

Plus, if we are healthy and energetic, we still want to feel useful, right? The days of a full-time, demanding job are behind us, but we don't really want complete retirement either. After all, you can only do so much fishing and golfing.

This is where freelancers have a clear advantage over other retirees.

We can change our work/life balance to allow for more flexibility while still meeting our financial goals or needs.

A healthy work-life balance is the key at any stage of life, even for retirees. Whether retirement is fast approaching or still years away, these 15 steps can help you plan and prepare for a smooth, stress-free transition.

1. Understand Your Current Habits

Take a moment to look at your average day. Is it healthy and balanced? If we are really honest, many of us would have to admit that we make a lot of compromises to our body and mind.

Things like poor nutrition, bad posture, lack of exercise, sleep deprivation, time mismanagement, and stress can take a toll on our lives.

Now is the time to step back, re-evaluate, and make some changes (little steps at a time) to achieve a healthier work-life balance.

If you start now, the transition into retirement will be less daunting because you will have avoided a major pitfall – allowing your career to consume every aspect of your life.

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2. Set Your Priorities

Decide what is important to you – really important! If you had to choose just one thing, what would it be? That's your number one priority.

What would come second, third, fourth? Identify 4 or 5 of your primary priorities and create a plan to help you achieve the work/life balance you desire. Sometimes, we fall into a pattern by default.

We don't even know it's happening until we suddenly realize that we no longer have time for the things that matter most. As a freelancer, you can structure your life to fit your priorities.

If you begin now, it will be a helpful habit that you can carry into retirement.

3. Eliminate Obstacles

If something is getting in the way of your priorities, remove it. Yes, some things are required and we have to do them whether we want to or not.

But, if we track how we really spend our time throughout the day, we would probably find a lot of things that side-track us from our true goals.

4. Make A Financial Plan

Meet with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) who will be able to work with your personal goals and work/life balance to create a financial plan specifically for you. You can find a list of questions to ask here.

5. Develop A Work/Life Balance Plan With Your CFP

With longer life expectancies, planning for retirement has never been more important. As a freelancer, you have an advantage over many other retirees because you have the ability to make changes to your risk management equation.

Being self-employed has unique advantages and challenges, so be sure to work with your CFP to ensure that you are financially prepared for retirement.

6. Plan Your Application Date For Social Security

Depending on which country you live in, the date you apply for Social Security (or equivalent) may affect the monthly amount you receive.

Find out the details for your country and what impact your role as a freelancer may have.

7. Apply For Medical Benefits

These benefits vary from country to country, but it is important to start submitting your papers as soon as you are eligible.

Typically, as we age, our medical expenses will increase, so one of the best ways to protect your retirement income and maintain your work/life balance, is to make sure you are covered for any costly medical expenses.

Plan ahead and you won't find yourself with a hefty bill.

8. Assess Previous Workplace Benefits

Did you work as an employee before you began your freelance career? Are there any retirement or health care benefits available to you through your previous employer?

Mention this to your CFP so any available funds can be included in your financial plan.

9. Plan A Rollover Of Your Retirement Accounts

Your CFP will help you assess your work/life balance options to determine the best time to begin drawing on your retirement funds and other available benefits.

They will consider the amount of freelancing work you do, your income goals, your retirement accounts and entitlements, and help you create a plan for financial security throughout your senior years.

10. Continue Freelancing

This may be important for financial reasons or simply because you love what you do! Maybe both. Retirement is even a good opportunity to try something new.

Leverage your experience and skills and become an entrepreneur. New challenges keep you young, right? And, you will be supplementing your income in the process.

11. Dream Again

Do you have some dreams that were put on the shelf while you were pursuing a career or supporting a family? Retirement is the time to discover old passions, or even develop new ones.

Whether it's art, music, painting, getting a degree, or taking a vacation – sign up! Remember, a work/life balance is not just about financial security. It's also about enjoying the life you have worked for.

You have prepared ahead of time so you can have some fun. Plus now you will even be able to take advantage of senior discounts!

12. Reinvent Yourself

Whether you are fully retired or still transitioning into a life of leisure, you will finally have more freedom to choose how you spend your time. Maybe you just want to relax after years of a stressful career, and that's fine.

But, many look up against retirement because they view it as an end rather than a beginning. You have years – maybe decades – ahead of you.

So, prepare for the next adventure. A key to maintaining a healthy work/life balance is to have something to look forward to.

13. Make The Most Of What You Have

As you enter (or transition toward) retirement, you will have more time to comparison shop.

Negotiate, bargain, and hunt for the best deals. It will challenge your brain and stretch your retirement dollars!

14. Plan People Time

Spend time with your family and build a good support network. Sometimes our work demands can be so consuming that we don't have time to build relationships.

Even if you haven't reached retirement yet, consider spending more time with family and friends, as it is these relationships that will provide you the greatest source of support in your senior years.

And, if you are retired, keep yourself busy and engaged. Volunteer and offer valuable services to the community. Yes, there is life after retirement, and it is possible to find a new purpose!

15. Make A Retirement Fitness Plan

This is important at any stage of life and it is never too soon to begin taking care of yourself. For a healthy retirement it is important to stay active and eat well.

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John Cosstick has worked as a banker, accountant and certified financial planner so he understands the financial challenges of freelancers. He is now a professional freelance journalist who is passionate about seeing freelancers of all skill sets getting better support. John supports and advocates for the Freelancers Union and would like to see an International Freelancers Union.

John is currently working towards developing a suite of software apps to help freelancers with financial issues. You can find out more about these issues by subscribing to his newsletter at http://ow.ly/UdOGJ