If asked: “What is the most important consideration for retirement?” What comes to your mind?
Most people would answer: “having enough money.”
While financial security is necessary, in my last 18 years of experience working with clients, I have found it is insufficient for retirement readiness. I can recall many times when money is no longer a barrier, but it is still hard for a successful business owner, a corporate executive, or a self-employed professional to pull the trigger and walk away from what they do. Sometimes people delay their retirement decision for years despite their genuine desire to explore and move on to the next life chapter. There are clearly more challenges in this major life transition, which relate more to personal dynamics, and here are a few:
1. Loss of Identity and Purpose
Work provides us with a sense of identity and purpose. It gives us a reason to wake up each morning to utilize our talent, express our creativity and fulfill our calling (whatever that may be). Without work, we are required to find other sources of meaning and purpose in our life, which often needs a deep, authentic self-discovery.
2. Social Isolation
Often our work automatically provides opportunities for socialization with colleagues, clients, vendors, and the business or professional community. In retirement, we need to find communities where we feel a sense of belonging. Building relationships takes time.
3. Lack of Routine and Structure
Our work schedule and external demands naturally give us a life structure. While it is not great to be too busy or stressed, it is equally bad to have too much time at hand and not enough to do. We can only get so much enjoyment from leisure activities before they become dull. In retirement, we need to plan our day and week intentionally and have the self-discipline to reinforce healthy, balanced routines.
From our experience working with retirees, we found some useful tools and strategies to help with the transition to retirement:
- Create a “Decision-Free Zone”
Although you may feel pressured to do so, do not make significant commitments for your time and energy as soon as you retire. Instead, allow yourself time to do nothing and just “be.” Understand and accept that there will be “white space” before you make new commitments and rebuild the structure in your life. This “white space” is a valuable opportunity for self-discovery, essential to find what is meaningful for your next chapter of life.
- Adopt a Growth Mindset
Keep in mind that retirement is not a one-time transition. Given longevity, retirement can be a long period lasting for 20 or 30 years. There will be new challenges at every age and stage, be it the loss of loved ones, health changes, grandparenting, relocation, long-term care events, etc. Adopting a growth mindset allows us to be resilient and turn challenges into opportunities for reinvention.
- Invest in Relationships and Manage Expectations
Supportive and loving relationships are a key ingredient to our well-being and happiness. It takes effort to invest in and nurture them. Also, be mindful of how your retirement decision impacts your spouse or anyone else important to you. As we know, unexpressed or unexamined expectations lead to disappointment and frustration. It is always a good idea to communicate with each other and set new expectations and boundaries as your lifestyle changes.
- Design Flow Activities
Flow activities can bring you a sustained feeling of vitality, energy, and connection. These activities have a couple of key components:
- Routine – regularly scheduled.
- Social – interaction with other people.
- Challenging – learning something new, meeting goals.
- Measurable – some way to track progress, achievement, or success.
Life is unpredictable and full of uncertainty, so it is important to manage wisely your two most valuable resources: time and money. As Eleanor Blayney wrote in her book, “Women’s Worth: Finding Your Financial Confidence”:
“Spend your time as if you have no tomorrow.
Spend your money as if you were to live to 100.”
We encourage our clients to live freely and pursue their dreams to make every day count. On the other hand, we do financial planning with our clients carefully to make sure their money lasts for their longevity. Here are a few books we recommend on this topic: