Let’s Talk about Retirement

Elder lady is happy with her husband

With 31 years as a financial advisor, there have been many experiences around retirement issues. Most people probably think of saving for retirement first when they consider hiring a financial advisor.  In fact, retirement money issues probably trigger most personal financial help.  In strictly financial terms, by retirement time you want a healthy financial statement that is large enough to provide a stream of income to support the lifestyle that is satisfying to you. The successful technique for this is consistent, disciplined contributions to decent investments and debt reduction.  Tax deferred retirement accounts are an enhancement, as are paying attention to investment expenses and avoiding excessive risk.  We are pretty good at helping figure out where clients stand on these issues and encouraging discipline.  Just as we say There is more to money than money®, we want our clients to understand that there is more to retirement than the retirement accounts.

Through the years, I have seen many other interesting scenarios that involve personal issues. One of the more amusing was the woman who said “I liked him better when he didn’t care how I load the dishwasher.”  I can’t count the number of times I have heard “I want to retire in five years,” every two or three years from the same client for ten years or more.  This is so common, it brought a chuckle from a room full of advisors I was in recently.  Then, there are the people who come to our office saying “I want to quit work as soon as possible.”  We do our work and find they have enough wealth already.  Yet, 5 to 10 years later they are still working.  So many ask for this estimate so often, we routinely do it for each client every year.

Why is this? Why do people continue working when they clearly have more resources than they need for a long and comfortable lifestyle?  The facts are that retirement is often scary.  I once teased a client about their “retirement stress,” after they seemed happily settled into their new lifestyle.  The response was quick and pointed.  “I want to see how you handle it when it is your turn.”

Everyone needs to feel productive. It is just not natural to go from being in demand at work every day, to the unknown of not working.  Nevertheless, we all need to understand one of the valuable lessons I learned from a client.  He said, “I love my work.  I always have and still do.  But, I am tired of it.  I can’t tell you what ‘it’ is but I’m tired of it.”  He did retire within a few months.  Shortly he was working part time in a semi-related role, which diminished over more than 10 years with lots of pleasure travel and experiences along the way.  For this person and others, who spread the transition over years, there seems to be considerably less stress.  If you can’t transition with work that pays income, finding something that feels productive and personally rewarding to you.

I have learned a lot from watching these stories play out. That “I’m tired of it” statement was the one that reminded me that someday I am very likely to feel that way.  For at least ten years, I have continued to enjoy my work as I watch old friends and colleagues retire.  I actually have the last Friday of most months marked as a potential vacation day that I rarely take.  I still prefer work to other things I might do those days.  I do travel, but I can’t seem to just take a day off.  I think I still have things to accomplish here and wonder when I will be tired of it.  Just in case I wake up one morning and don’t want to work anymore, I do have a plan in place.  Our clients have taught me that There is more to money than money®, when it comes to issues around retirement – as everything else.

David Lewis DLewis@ResourceAdv.com

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