Afraid to retire, even though you can?
I am seeing an interesting pattern in discussions with my clients about retirement — and it’s certainly not one I was expecting. Instead of worrying about whether they’ll have enough saved to enjoy retirement, they’re worrying about whether they’ll enjoy retirement at all.
Discussions about retirement start almost as soon as people get their first jobs. Whether it’s saving as much as possible in their 401(k) plan or making an annual IRA contribution, the focus is always on having enough money to retire and enjoy all the things they’ve been dreaming of doing.
For some, the big plans include traveling to far-flung destinations; for others, it’s spending time with family, finally moving to that place they love to visit on vacation, or volunteering.
As people make progress on achieving those retirement dreams, they don’t spend time thinking about what life may actually look like in retirement.
Just last week, I spoke to a client who says she would like to retire at the end of this year. We have been working toward her economic freedom for years, and she has enough assets to be able to make all the dreams she has expressed come to fruition.
We got to the end of the financial plan discussion, and I was all set to celebrate starting the countdown to the long-awaited retirement date.
But there was a pause, and then she said, “I don’t know if I can actually start to withdraw the money and feel good about it. I have been so focused on saving, investing and planning for years that I don’t know how I will feel about starting to take money out, even if it’s for things I think I want.”
Feelings of ambivalence
She went on to say that she always thought she wanted to move to another state to be close to her extended family, but she now realizes that they are going to be busy with their own lives, and it won’t just be fun all the time, like her visits now.
She worries that the photography and golf hobbies that she feels like she never has time to enjoy now won’t be enough to fill her days. She has traveled extensively already, and the list of places she still wants to visit is getting shorter.
In other words, her biggest worry about retiring is what she is going to do with her time — even though she says frequently that she can’t wait to stop working.
For other people, retiring from being an expert in their field or having a prestigious job feels like giving up part of the identity they have worked very hard to earn.
So, what do you do when the hardest part about retirement is actually retiring? Here are some ideas to make retirement the next step in a journey, not a final destination:
Consider slowing down at work instead of stopping completely. Working part-time allows you to have the best of both worlds: continued income and a day-to-day sense of purpose, as well as the time to pursue hobbies, travel and leisure.
Try before you buy. If relocation is in your retirement plans, take a new location for a test drive before committing to living there full-time.
Rent a house for a year in a new state to see if you like living there. In the meantime, you can rent out your current home for some income, or just come back home for a break during the very hot or cold months in the new state.
Plan to explore new things. While you may have a few hobbies that you enjoy now and want to pursue in retirement, you can also plan to try out new experiences to keep your day-to-day life fresh and interesting.
Many people find that volunteering gives them the purpose that working used to fulfill — but without the stress.
You can also explore activities that you always thought sounded fun — painting, ballroom dancing, pickleball — but never had time to do before.
“I am busier now that I’m retired than I was when I was working” is a common theme I hear from clients, but now the activities are things they enjoy.
Having your financial adviser work with you on planning for your life in retirement as well as your finances will ensure the transition you make will be happy and fulfilling.
© 2021 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.