As I write today’s column, I’m ending seven years of teaching financial planning at Purdue University. No, it does not mark my retirement from the financial services industry but it does evoke a substantial amount of emotion. As I walked the halls of the hallowed university one more time, my colleagues thanked me for my service and asked me what I will do in my “spare time.” Be assured, this “extra” time was already spoken for before my resignation letter hit the desk of the department head! But the question of how time will be spent “in retirement” is an important consideration for anyone thinking about leaving the workforce.
Retirement for many individuals turns out to be far more emotional than they expect. By definition, retirement marks a closure of hopefully happy employment memories and simultaneously opens the door for new opportunities. Most of the people we help plan for retirement expects they will have no problem filling their days with grandchildren, hobbies, traveling and volunteer work. They couldn’t be more right. In fact, most of our retirees wonder how they got everything done while they were employed!
A frequent but unexpected challenge for many retirees is the emotional space associated with the “identity” left behind. For men in particular (although I have seen males and females impacted greatly), personal identity can be much more aligned with the work performed than the person’s financial earnings. Self-fulfillment comes from being good at what you do, knowing the “rules and ropes” that come with experience, and feeling confident in a day-to-day regimen that offers emotional security. The satisfaction derived from other people counting on your work is stronger than you might think.
You can sit down with a qualified financial planner to determine when you can retire financially. There are assumptions that must be made, but good wisdom and sound management can help provide confidence moving forward. The challenge seems to be dealing with the unknowns, both financially and emotionally. Below are a few examples of post-retirement challenges we’ve observed as we’ve helped more than 500 families retire:
Your spouse is used to having the house alone during the day and suddenly your presence is invading their space! You spent your days at work making big decisions and thriving on pressure. After retirement, things previously unnoticed suddenly seem urgent as your brain searches to make the big decisions it has become accustomed to making over the years. Now that you have the time, a favorite hobby that always provided relaxation no longer delivers the same sense of relief. The grandchildren’s softball, soccer and other sporting games feel more like a full-time job than treasured moments.
A successful retirement requires financial preparation but it also demands an emotional understanding. Leaving a career marks not just an end but also a new beginning. The best beginnings, however start with a plan, as opposed to a let’s just see what happens approach. Happy days are ahead if you plan accordingly.
Disclaimer: Do not construe anything written in this post or this blog in its entirety as a recommendation, research, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. Everything in this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in the blog. Please see my Disclosure page for full disclaimer.