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Retirement - Beyond the Numbers

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I recently attended an interesting presentation by Joni Youngwirth.  The premise was that financial planners do a great job of helping their clients figure out if they have sufficient financial resources to meet their retirement goals but could do a better job of helping clients get ready for the non-financial aspects of the transition into retirement.  I thought about it, and it does seem the transition into retirement is easier for some clients and harder for others.  What’s the secret?  It’s a little different for everyone, but a common element for clients with easier transitions is they have actively developed interests and activities to “retire into.” 

Our time at work does more for us than just provide financial benefits.  It is where we can find purpose, status, and meaning.  It can be a large part of our social circle, a place to feel connected to the larger world, and a structure to manage our time.  Clients with the most successful retirement transitions recognize the non-financial benefits of work and develop a plan to reestablish the benefits through activities unconnected to the workplace.

Visualization is a technique often used by performers and athletes to mentally “see themselves” performing an activity before they go on stage or walk on the field.  Visualizing different parts of the retirement transition process can be a useful way to identify areas that need further development.  For example, after the initial “to-do lists” are complete, what do you plan to do on a typical Tuesday?  Mentally map the day out hour-by-hour and then write it down.  Will you wake up and go to the gym?  Will you drink coffee and read the newspaper until 10?  What then?  Will you volunteer at your church?  Play golf in the afternoon with friends?  Take a class?  Who is cooking dinner?  Will you take a walk after dinner with your spouse?  Now try to visualize and schedule a whole week.  If you had large blocks of unallocated time, your retirement transition may be harder.  If you are excited about the way your schedule looks, there is a good chance your transition to retirement will be easier. 

Consider developing a hobby before retirement.  People who don’t have many interests outside work (or work is their hobby) can have a harder time transitioning into retirement.  People that have hobbies or are actively planning on mastering a skill like golf or playing an instrument are more likely to have smoother transitions into retirement. 

Think about your social situation during retirement.  Staying engaged with others is healthy.  Isolation is not.  If much of your social network was connected to your workplace, think about how you are going to socialize after retirement.  I have seen people successfully make new friends and reconstitute their social groups through involvement in their church, other charitable activities, and through groups associated with a hobby they enjoy.

If you are married, take a long vacation (or two) with just your spouse before retiring.  Vacations are great for many reasons, but during this time they can allow the two of you to re-establish dormant connections and create new shared experiences.  It is common for clients to mention they are concerned about the amount of time they will spend with their spouse after retirement.  Longer vacations, with periods of extended “downtime,” can give a glimpse into how shared time with your spouse will be in retirement.  (It is often at this time, your spouse will help you find a hobby that requires significant time away from your house.)

Lastly, stay healthy.  Life is better if your health is good.  The old saying, “If you have your health, you have everything,” really is true.  Staying physically active seems to protect against a number of diseases and injuries associated with aging.  Consider approaching mental and physical exercise as a part of your “new job.” Treat them as something you must do every day. 

Taking time to plan for the non-financial aspects of retirement can make your transition to this new phase of life much easier.  Our advisory team has years of experience helping people through this transition.

Feel free to contact us and discuss your retirement— beyond the numbers.