Do you remember when you had your first child? Everyone was so excited for you as you made your announcement. They threw you parties, gave you gifts and looked at you with joy and maybe even a little envy. You got the baby home and things quieted down and at some point, you looked down at your little bundle of joy and thought, “Oh my goodness, what have I done?”
The same is often true about retirement. You worked your entire life, building your identity and having a purpose that in many ways centered around your profession. You had challenges and successes and your work shaped you in ways you never would have imagined at the beginning of your career. And here you are on the cusp of retirement and you may be elated, but still wondering, “Where is the manual for this???” Truth be told, there is none. But let us share some of the psychological transitions that many of our clients have disclosed, that you may experience.
It’s not unusual for there to be an initial stage of elation and fear combined. You may have a large list of things to do and on that list one of the things may be doing nothing. After not working for a little while, this list can seem trite or without purpose. If you are single, it’s not unusual to start feeling a little isolated. If you are married, it is VERY common to want to strangle your spouse (don’t feel bad, they may want to strangle you as well- it will most likely pass.) As the days turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months, without a profession to focus on, people start focusing on issues that may or may not be real issues. This can be family drama, current events, investments, budgeting, housing, and even the neighbors landscaping habits. We’ve seen it all.
Given that this is all normal, and almost a necessary part of the transition, you may ask yourself if there is any way to reduce the negative impact of the shift and accentuate the positive. We have found there are definitely things people can do to help themselves through this major life stage.
First, know that “retirement” is a far outdated term. Retirement used to imply people who were at an age that they did nothing but live a life of leisure. We don’t know too many people who do that successfully in their 50s or 60s for very long. They quite simply start to lose their minds if they do. Think about the stage after you leave your lifelong career as “Financial Independence” – a time when you no longer have to work for money to be able to maintain your lifestyle. We often encourage our clients who hit this stage to continue to work for some amount of money- especially if they would do it for free, but it has value to others. There is just something different about having a paycheck that makes you feel differently about work.
Next, think about getting yourself into a regular routine. Our clients who are the happiest have a pretty full and busy schedule with regular things that they do. This may be some work, some time with grandchildren, some volunteer time, regular trips, etc. that they plan and count on like they did their work schedule. The difference is, when those things become tiresome, they can replace them with something new.
Which brings us to the third consideration: try new things as much as possible. Studies have shown that people who continue to learn and have adventures are far happier than those who settle into ruts. If you are single, have friends that will do these things with you. If you are married, engage your spouse in things that are different and maybe uncomfortable.
It may seem odd that the people who advise you about your money think this is a big enough issue to address. It’s not strange for us. This ends up being ALL about the money in the end. We’ve seen people blow fortunes on businesses and real estate because they were bored. We’ve seen marriages end and even worse, people deteriorate mentally before it was their time. All these outcomes have a dramatic impact on your finances. At The Planned Approach, we don’t like to just focus on the cash, but on the behaviors that the money is supposed to support. Your finances are just part of the resources that can give you a good life. But the actions and habits you develop in retirement will have a bigger impact on your nest egg than anything we can do in house. While we have seen some tragedy, we have seen so many of our clients achieve greater happiness in retirement than they ever have before. They have found purpose, community and joy. We want that for you as well.