Decision to Retire Isn’t Just About Money

by Steve Cassaday, CFP®, CFS

We regularly see clients who undeniably have enough money to retire comfortably but will not do it. After 34 years of helping people ramp up to retirement, I have learned that being ready to retire means having enough money but also, and often more importantly, it means being mentally and psychologically ready. Retirement can be very scary, but with thoughtful preparation and a little effort it does not have to be.

Many people go to great lengths to avoid facing the reality that they have a fear of retiring. They make excuses about having important work to complete, or waiting “just one more year” and make jokes about being home all day with nothing to do and being under the feet of their spouse. The truth is they are unsure of what retirement will look like for them and a fear of change and of the unknown is daunting for many.

We recommend a systematic approach to this problem that provides clarity about what you will be doing once you leave your work environment.

  1. Write out a list of things that you would like to do in the next 12 months, 3 years and 5 years. These goals can serve as a roadmap for accomplishing the things that will make retirement as fulfilling as possible.
  2. Get a blank weekly scheduler and plan at least 2 weeks of normal activity pretending that you will not be going to work. You need to actually write down the pretend things you would do, scheduling start and stop times. Do not include vacations in this weekly plan, just think about what you are going to do all day if you are not at work. Most find this a little challenging but nearly all find it very illuminating. It’s funny but goofing off can be hard work.
  3. Get your spouse or partner involved. One of the greatest challenges of retirement is getting to know that person again, especially in a new environment. You may be spending a lot more time together and the potential for disruption, discomfort, resentment and upset are very real. Frank discussions, held in advance, about expectations, outcomes, goals and potential problems is a great therapeutic and cleansing exercise that will set the stage for success. Making sure in advance that your retirement planning is a joint effort can avoid many common problems with newly reunited couples.
  4. We recommend a life coach for most of our retiring clients. In general, coaches help compartmentalize issues surrounding major life decisions so they can be dealt with individually as part of a process of comprehensively addressing all things necessary for a great result. Gwen Paulson of Coaching & Consulting LLC in Alexandria helps clients determine “what brings them joy” and then sets up a plan to pursue those things. Susan Braverman, of Bethesda, Md. helps clients get “unstuck” by providing a “structured, systematic approach to making changes”. They give people the tools they need to make smart decisions in retirement by asking tough questions with a goal of getting the retiree to a place where they are able to put a plan in place that makes sense. A few sessions with a life coach can help you clear out the cobwebs and get ramped up for a great retirement.

We strongly advise clients to follow these simple steps so they don’t flunk retirement. A systematic approach to the non-financial side of this very important stage of life with an emphasis on the emotional and psychological aspects can make your retirement all that you want it to be.

As seen in the 2/3/2012 issue of Washington Business Journal


Contact Michelle Tigani

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