Retirement Panic Attack? 4 Questions to See if You are Emotionally Ready to Retire
Retirement brings many changes, which can affect your emotional well-being, for better or worse.
Retirement in the 21st century is different than it used to be. Retirement lasts longer, thanks to a longer average life expectancy, and there are more opportunities for how to spend that time. While retirement planning concerns generally revolve around your finances in retirement, determining whether you’re emotionally prepared for this major milestone in life is just as important. One thing we've observed in our 50 years of working with families at this transition point: Many retirees forget to consider the emotional changes retirement can have on a person, and this can result in loneliness, loss of purpose and even depression.
If your retirement date is nearing, there are 4 important questions you need to ask.
Q1: What Will You Do?
There are certain clichés about how retirees spend their time – enjoying an obligation-free life and simply doing “nothing,” working on their "bucket" lists, golfing, visiting with grandkids, having lunch with friends, traveling, etc. However, these are clichés because, while they are common ways retirees do in fact spend their time, they may not be a fit for you. For example, spending your days at home may sound like a dream while you’re commuting to and from work, but being home alone day after day can get old quick.
Golf, too, may be a passion of yours, but will you really want to spend every day at the golf course?
It’s also important to address how the pandemic has affected your plans. If you’re expecting to travel, for example, is that still possible? Are you still able to visit family or friends?
Find out what your retirement personality is, and then discuss your plans with a financial advisor to see if those plans are realistic.
Q2: Do Your Finances Support Your Plans?
Work with your financial advisor to ascertain how much money you will have to live on in retirement, because this will most certainly impact what you can actually do. Retiring and not being able to carry out the plans you had in mind can be emotionally devastating.
Carefully completing this analysis can help you avoid catastrophic mistakes. We work today with a client who came to us after suffering significant wealth loss in a fraudulent investment Ponzi scheme, which diminished his retirement capital by more than one-third. He had been enticed into the investment because it appeared to offer the attractive returns that might enable him and his wife to pursue the early retirement lifestyle they desired. That lost capital can never be recovered, but fortunately for them, they've been able to develop a new retirement plan with some modifications that has proven most enjoyable over the past 15 years.
Talking to a financial advisor early on can help you determine pitfalls in your plans as well as ways to “find” more money in your budget to make your plans a reality. Downsizing or relocating, for example, may allow you to improve your financial situation.
Relocating is common among retirees, whether it’s to be closer to family, into a senior-living facility or to an area you’ve always dreamed of living but couldn’t because of work obligations. However, a move can be a financial plus, but it can also drain your savings and shortchange your future if you forget to consider cost of living changes. Senior living facilities, for example, can be expensive.
If you plan to downsize, your monthly budget could benefit. Keep in mind that downsizing can also have emotional costs, especially for new retirees who aren’t accustomed to spending large percentages of time with a spouse or other family members. Giving up space might also interfere with your hobbies. If, after serious consideration, you decide to downsize, discuss your plans with a financial advisor.
Q3: Who Will You Spend Your Time With?
This may sound like a trivial question, but it’s important!
So many retirees assume they’ll spend time with their family or close friends, but often times, those people are still working, or have plans of their own. If your plans revolve around specific people, make sure they’ll actually be available. If they will be, make sure COVID-19 hasn’t changed that.
We recently helped clients plan a move back to their long-time home in Georgia after uprooting themselves to move 3,000 miles to be near their daughter, only to find the daughter's work and social routine did not really afford the kind of time to be together that she originally envisioned. Those two moves involved some serious financial and emotional costs.
In today’s world, we can spend time with individuals without being in the same room as them. But for many people, that’s not enough.
Not having anyone to spend your free time with could inspire you to relocate. Do your finances allow for that? Remember, retirement planning in Atlanta may look different that retirement planning in another area.
Another available option is to work longer. When work is a big part of your life, and therefore, your identity, you may not want to retire as soon as you thought. There are pros and cons to working later in life. Read our recent blog post, Working in Retirement: What to Consider, and remember to discuss your new plans with your financial advisor.
Q4: What Will Give You Purpose (Especially if Your Purpose is Wrapped Up in Your Job)?
For many working Americans, retirement is a great opportunity to start volunteering for causes they find truly engaging. Volunteering can be a win-win in retirement, because it not only gives retirees something to do but can provide a sense of purpose, which is important.
If volunteering is part of your retirement plans, here are some tips to help you get started:
- Know why you want to volunteer: Identifying your reasons can help lead you to the most fulfilling positions. The best opportunities will suit your personal interests and may differ from what you did during your career. If you felt a little burned out by the time you retired, don’t put yourself back into the same role. Rather, choose a volunteer role that ignites your passion. Don’t fall into the trap of volunteering somewhere just because there happens to be an opening.
- Understand the qualifications for a specific role: It’s true that many organizations are happy for anyone to volunteer, but you have the opportunity to be choosy. The role you seek may require a background check, training and/or an upfront commitment of time. Some organizations may ask too much of your time and energy. If it’s hard to work up the enthusiasm to show up at the volunteer site, then you’re probably in the wrong place.
- Consider the buddy system: It can be decidedly easier to volunteer when you do so with a friend or spouse. Volunteering with someone can also help strengthen your relationship with that person.
- Research your options before you retire: Are you hoping to use your professional skills in a volunteer capacity? Talk to your co-workers about organizations they donate to, work with or are passionate about. Are there mentoring opportunities that may interest you? Talking with your co-workers and friends may also open your eyes to other volunteer work you may not have considered on your own.
Take care of your emotional health after you retire. Too many seniors fall into depression when they stop working. Take steps before you retire to mentally prepare yourself for all the changes. If possible, test drive your plans first. For more on what this looks like, read our recent blog post: How to Test Drive Your Retirement (And Stress Test Your Plans).