Understanding the financial implications of retirement before you exit the workforce is not an option, but a necessity. Establishing a clear picture of your financial situation requires a thoughtful analysis of projected expenses, retirement income from Social Security and other sources (e.g., pension, part-time work, rental income) and the financial assets available to bridge the gap between the two. Minimizing the stress and worry of running out of money makes this time planning well spent.
More than a financial plan. While a retirement without enough money will clearly be unappealing to most seniors, focusing solely on the economic aspects and ignoring the social and psychological ramifications can mean the difference between merely surviving versus thriving during this two- or three-decade stage of life. Recognizing that it may be harder for those contemplating retirement to anticipate the impact of these qualitative factors, gerontologists and psychologists are attempting to gain a greater understanding of the critical role that these psychosocial factors play in ensuring a quality retirement.
For many, leaving the workforce means giving up an important source of physical and mental engagement, social support, purpose and even sense of identity, all of which we know contribute greatly to a person’s image of themselves and consequently their overall health and happiness.
The gap between perception and reality. Research conducted by the MIT AgeLab found that most people do not have a clear idea of what their retirement will consist of and consequently are unprepared for what the future holds. In many cases, after 40 or more years of working at a challenging job in a structured environment, retiring to an unstructured life of leisure could turn out to be less attractive than you are imagining. It can be especially difficult, even traumatic for those who most enjoy the challenges of solving problems and working within a busy schedule.
For soon to be retirees, it is critical to reflect on what’s important to you, how you want to spend your time and who you want to spend it with. Finding a set of routines that you enjoy, activities and interests that challenge you physically and mentally and people who stimulate you will not happen automatically. This requires planning.
People. We are social creatures, and connections with others are essential for our mental, emotional and physical health. The research on this subject supports the idea that positive social relationships are an important determinant of healthy aging and are associated with lower blood pressure, improved cognitive function, a stronger immune system and longevity. For most of us, the workplace is an essential source of social connections and support because it is the activity that occupies most of our waking time during our working lives. When you leave your job for retirement, you are also leaving behind many of those everyday relationships. For the sake of your mental and physical health, happiness and well-being, develop a plan for how you will maintain those relationships and create new ones outside of your work. The time to start building and implementing that plan is not when you retire — it is now.
This article is for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice on individual financial, tax, or legal matters. Please consult the appropriate professional concerning your specific situation before making any decisions. John Spoto is the founder of Sentry Financial Planning in Andover and Danvers. For more information, call 978-475-2533 or visit www.sentryfinancialplanning.com