What does retirement mean to you? The word itself comes from “retire,” a French word that means to withdraw to a place of seclusion — a monastery, perhaps. That’s probably not how you see yourself spending your post-career years, at least not all of them.
But how do you envision your retirement? And will you be ready when the time comes to give up the daily grind? Not just financially ready — but emotionally and psychologically ready?
“Old age is no place for sissies,” Bette Davis famously said. And, it turns out, neither is retirement.
First, let’s address an anxiety I’ve seen plague people at every income level: thinking retirement isn’t even possible, regardless of whether you’re making $50,000 per year or $500,000.
Impossible? No. Difficult? Yes. But between your savings, Social Security, the potential of a company pension, and the reduced cost of living you will incur as an empty-nester retiree, you will almost certainly be able to stop working at some point. Maybe not at 55 or 65, but retirement will be possible in some form, somewhere down the line.
Here’s the bigger concern: How will you adjust to life after the retirement party? Too many of us spend our adult years working, fretting and saving for a chapter in our lives we haven’t really thought about. As a result, a surprising number of the retirees I meet are less than satisfied with their new situation.
Take “Peg,” for example. She retired at 57 with great health, plenty of money and modest living expenses. The woman has the freedom to do whatever she wants. What she does is spend a lot of time pondering whether she should have retired. She’s not alone. A recent study found that only half of all retirees felt retirement was “better than” pre-retirement.
The emotional side of retirement
It’s not uncommon in my experience for new retirees to experience any number of troubling emotions, including fear about money, guilt about not working and a sense of uselessness or disconnection from the community. The guilt can be especially bad if a spouse is still working a job they don’t love. As the years roll by, some retirees realize they are adrift – just passing the time in a mundane, unrewarding routine.
Others deny themselves the potential joys of retirement – travel, hobbies, helping younger family members – and even put themselves in a financial bind by continuing to save at their pre-retirement levels. I’ve talked to retirees who actually take extra money out of their IRA every month, pay the taxes and then put those funds in a savings account. That’s typically not necessary or financially wise.
As a certified financial planner, retirement is at the core of my profession. I take pride in my firm’s ability to help clients fund their post-career dreams, whether that’s spending more time with their grandkids, running a small business or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. But retirement is about more than money. As a result of my experience with clients, friends and family members, I’ve developed a desire to help people prepare mentally and emotionally to enjoy what should be some of the best years of their lives.
I’m putting together a study – ‘The Problem with Retirement’ – and I would very much like your input. If you are still working, I’d like to hear your concerns about retirement — financial and otherwise. I’m especially interested in learning whether and how you are actively talking about and planning for life after work. Do you have a “bucket list?” If so, what’s on it?
If you are retired, tell me how it’s going. What was the best thing you did to prepare, either financially or mentally? What came as a surprise? Is your financial plan holding up? If you are running low on money, what’s the plan?
What things did you worry about needlessly? What would you have done differently? Would you have worked longer? Retired earlier? What’s it like being with your spouse around the clock?
I hope you will share your experience, wisdom, questions and stories with us through your comments below. And, if you have further thoughts, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to our Facebook page, Wes Moss Money Matters, which we’ve just launched.
- By Wes Moss, for Atlanta Bargain Hunter