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The Great Unknown In Retirement

The Great Unknown In Retirement

December 30, 2020

The Great Unknown in Retirement


We plan.  That’s what our firm does.  We plan for our client’s future financial goals.  We ensure that every “i” gets dotted, and every “t”, gets crossed.  We plan investments, adhering to a goal driven investment allocation plan, we monitor and adjust risk levels.  We even run various scenarios through the most up-to-date software to review various scenarios that we might not have already accounted for.  We ensure that our clients remain long-term, goal-focused, planning-driven and are as financially prepared for their retirement, as they can possibly be. 


And yet, what if . . .


What if we have exhaustively prepared for the financial piece of retirement, only to find that retirement doesn’t make us happy?  What if retirement isn’t everything we thought it was going to be?


What about the psychological impact of retirement?  Imagine spending most of your adult life working towards a single financial goal, and then when you finally reach it, you’re not happy?  Then what?  What if you’ve done all the things necessary to be financially successful in retirement (i.e. you have enough money), but your dream of retirement leaves you feeling empty and unfulfilled?


What if you discovered that part of your happiness, or perhaps part of your own identity, was your ability to stay productive and make a contribution to something bigger than yourself?  What if you suddenly find yourself wanting to go back to that job? 


Perhaps maybe we should be planning not only for the financial part of your retirement, but also the “why” of your retirement?


Finding your “why” in your retirement may give you purpose and meaning that no amount of financial planning can give to you. 


In retirement, you run the risk of losing your “why” which may be caused by any number of factors:


Boredom – It’s simply too quiet.  The daily challenges you faced while working, which, in a sort-of-ironic way motivated you, suddenly aren’t there.  Everyday domestic tasks don’t translate into self-worth.  Leisure activities, as nice as they are, aren’t necessarily meaningful, nor do they contribute to fulling your “why”.


Lack of Social Interaction – Not being part of a group, where collaboration and idea sharing were prevalent, a feeling of isolation may quickly begin to set in.


Status Anxiety – Potential casual conversation with strangers can even be a point of anxiety when the question of “what do you do?” may lead to feelings of inadequacy, and no longer being needed.  Imagine being the center of a world where your importance was measured and meaningful to one where you feel no longer needed and that you’re now “sitting on the sideline”.


I’m supposed to be happy – But what if you’re not?  You should be, right?  After all you’re financially secure in retirement, why shouldn’t you be happy?


I’m certainly am not suggesting that everyone will fall into this bear trap of not being prepared for the great unknown in retirement.  In fact, many of our clients retire and are living a happy retirement.  But it’s worth having a conversation about, and being able to find your own “why”. Some helpful thoughts on finding your “why” might be:


Staying Physically active:  I can only speak for myself, having spent the better part of my working years in an air-conditioned office, sitting down looking at charts, graphs and computer screens for hours on end.  Find a way to be active for hours a day, not an hour a day. 


Learn a new skill:  It’s time to try something new.  Maybe you’ve always wanted to try carpentry, maybe learning how to grow your own food, or learning about nature.  Perhaps learning survival skills?  For me?  Tinkering with small engine maintenance and repair would be a goal.


A project:  This may add structure to your week, which in turn provides you that balance of still working toward a goal.  It may help to keep your brain active.


Family:  For all those times during your busy career where you couldn’t find the time.  You now have the time to finally catch up and be engaged in every aspect of your family’s own maturation and growth.


Fun and relaxation:  It’s important, that yes, while you’re retired, you still need an outlet of fun and relaxation.  Maybe catch up on all those little “weekend” trips that time didn’t permit you to take. 


The overall goal of your retirement might be to chisel out a better version of yourself.   Someone that you’re happy to be, regardless of what anyone else thinks.


It’s the simple things in retirement that can add to your “why” and make your retirement truly the best, most vibrant, and most fulfilling time of your life.


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