By Laurie Haelen
I have been engaged with clients in the financial services field for over 25 years, with many of them being either close to retirement or already retired.
Throughout my career, like many, I have pondered the prospect of retirement and at times looked up on it as a welcome release from the day to day stresses we all struggle with.
Retirement became this destination I was heading toward, almost to the point where my daily life became so focused on it that I did not enjoy it to the fullest.
Fortunately, I realized that what I really needed was a better working environment to do the work I enjoy — ideally for longer. I was focused mainly on one aspect of retirement — the financial one — and not thinking at all about the other things I may give up once the big day came.
Many clients make this error and find out later that they miss the daily camaraderie, the satisfaction of a job well done or even part of their identity that work provides for them.
That is why it is critical to look at retirement from more than one perspective before you choose to take that step. Of course, the financial part is more critical than ever, with pensions much less common and the cost of living significantly higher than in the past. But the decision to retire should not, in most cases, be based solely upon this one factor. Instead, here are three other factors to consider to help you make a good decision.
The first factor is your emotional readiness. For many, a job is a big part of their identify — it certainly occupies a lot of time in our lives. If you often feel that your best contributions to your work are behind you and your job provides little or no personal fulfillment, you may be ready. If your job is so stressful you can’t enjoy your time outside of work, this also is a sign.
As a matter of fact, a recent study published in the scientific journal PNAS found that stress can speed up the natural aging process of the immune systems of older people, increasing the risk of cancer, heart disease and infection illnesses. If work stress is ruining your health, it may be time to see if there is an option for you to make a change.
Sense of Purpose
Another factor is finding ways to spend your days or creating a sense of purpose. Good or bad, depending on the job, work creates a purpose and sometimes people feel lost without it. Envision your days and have a plan for how to spend them before you retire. Clients always tell me they will be relieved to walk away from a bad boss or tedious work, but then at times have a hard time figuring out how else to spend their time. It may help to view retirement as something different, perhaps an evolution or a second act where you get to do a lot of things you did not have time for before.
Also, if most of your social connections are through work, you may need to look to expand your social circle a bit. For example, you could make or expand friendships in your neighborhood, at a local gym or community center (pickle ball is very popular these days), by volunteering at a nonprofit or place of worship, or joining a club for a special interest- there seems to be one for almost everything available these days. If you miss your vocation, it is likely someone can use your skills – albeit likely for little or no money. Retired board members are some of the best ones that I have worked with.
The third factor is your family — and the opportunity to spend more time with them. A recent study by 72 Point found that Americans spend an average of 37 minutes of quality time with their family per day. There is value in having long blocks of time to spend with family or friends you enjoy and retirement can provide this for you.
It is also important that your spouse or significant other (if you have one) is ready for your retirement. You may be looking forward to spending more quality time together and they may find their schedule disrupted by your sudden availability. Make sure to discuss things you both want to do once you have the time together. I have seen couples struggle with the first year of retirement as they adjust to this new “togetherness” (and even divorce), so getting on the same page with your daily life before it changes is a sound strategy.
Retirement is a chance to try new things, an opportunity to relax, your second act — basically whatever you choose for it to be. Make sure to continue to diligently plan for the financial aspects, but don’t ignore the other factors and you will be more fulfilled as you embark on the next step in your journey.
Laurie Haelen, AIF (accredited investment fiduciary), is senior vice president, manager of investment and financial planning solutions, CNB Wealth Management, Canandaigua National Bank & Trust Company. She can be reached at 585-419-0670, ext. 41970 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.