It’s complicated, this retirement thing. It sneaks up on you, and many of us aren’t quite ready. We haven’t saved enough, didn’t plan enough or we just haven’t figured out what we will do with all that time suddenly thrust upon us.
Saving for retirement is difficult enough. Many surveys show that Americans have saved very little for retirement. According to a survey by GoBanking Rates, one-third of Americans report they have no retirement savings and 23% have less than $10,000 saved.
But there is so much focus on financial preparation that many times people forget to prepare mentally. That lack of planning can lead them to end up wiling their days away sitting in that easy chair in front of the television.
“Some of them underestimate the impact of it,” says Sandra Newman, founder and president of REAP Financial in Austin, Texas. “They think it’s going to be great to wake up and find they have nothing to do. But after a few weeks they are bored and needing something in their lives.
“For other people it is an easy transition,” she says. “Those who have hobbies and other interests they are looking to pursue, it can be easy. But for others, it is a hard and stark change. And they have to ease into it.”
It’s especially tough for people who have been working for years and have developed long-term friendships with co-workers.
“You’ve had that all-consuming job for all those years,” says Brett King at Elite Financial Advisors in Tampa, Fla. “You almost don’t know anything different.
“I’ve been in this business for 35 years,” he says. “I have had a lot of clients retire. The ones who stay as busy as possible after retirement are not only happier but they are often healthier as well.”
Newman calls it the “soft side” of retirement.
“There is a psychological aspect to working full-time and finding your identity in work to now having to develop a new life,” she says. “It’s easier for some people — those people who have more hobbies and interests outside of work. For most people whose whole identity and life is tied up in work, it is very difficult.
“I encourage them to think that through before they retire,” she says. “Maybe you want to work part time or do consulting to ease into it.”
King, meanwhile, says he has worked with many of physicians over the years, helping them plan and prepare for retirement.
“These guys work crazy hours – seeing patients, surgery, making rounds. All of a sudden, one day they are retired. They think will pay golf. But no matter what you do, you get tired of it.”
He says Ameriprise Financial surveyed retired baby boomers about being mentally prepared and the reasons people weren’t prepared. “They missed the daily interaction with colleagues that they were used to,” he says. “That’s all they know. They tried getting used to all new routines, which is hard.”
According to that Ameriprise survey, the Retirement Triggers study, the hardest aspects of retirement cited by respondents are emotional adjustments like losing connections with colleagues (37%), getting used to a different routine (32%) or finding purposeful ways to pass the time (22%).
“We are creatures of habit,” King says. “I get up at the same time very day. You get used to your routine. When it changes, it’s tough to mentally prepare for that. Unless you have gone through it, it’s tough to prepare. It’s the same as you have a best friend who has lost his wife. You think you know what they need, but you can’t feel it unless you’ve experienced it.”
There are things pre-retirees can do to prepare for the big day, King says. This will help you ease into retirement as opposed to being thrust into it.
- Create a retirement schedule ahead of time. “You don’t want to wake up and say yesterday you had a routine, today you don’t know what to do. You wake up at the same time as work. You should create a schedule that gets you out of the house and keeps you busy. Try exercising, stay active, start preparing for retirement by doing computer mind games or taking classes. Go to your local community college or take classes online to keep mind going. Do volunteer work. Pick a charity near and dear to your heart that you didn’t have time to do.
Kaycee Sink, a geriatrician who heads the Memory Assessment Clinic at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, says it is beneficial for people continue to participate in activities when they are retired. Retirees who stay cognitively and socially active have a tendency to be happier, and studies have even shown that staying active can reduce the risk of depression..
- Consider planning for a part-time job ahead of retirement. “It’s not that you need money. Pick an area you love that wasn’t part of your career. Pick an area you would love to-do. Maybe you love gardening. Maybe you love painting. Maybe you love working part-time at Ace home center. It should be something you can enjoy. Additional income is secondary at that point.”
- Get yourself mentally prepared. It will help you to be mentally prepared the more financially prepared you are. If I have made that decision that I will retire in a year but, in the back of my mind I know I am not in best financial shape, or didn’t sit with a financial professional so I don’t know and have little bit of doubt, it will affect you mentally as well.
- Go in as positive as possible. “Throw yourself a celebration party. Celebrate your success. You worked all those years and are able to retire. Start your retirement on a celebratory note.”
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