Yes, I know that “unscared” is not a real word – but it fits the purpose of this article – especially if you happen to be scared about retirement. Let’s face it, while retirement can be exciting, it can also be a bit daunting, with some unique challenges and pitfalls to avoid. Here are a few reasons why you might be legitimately scared about retirement, along with potential solutions.
Loss of Income. Unless you have a lot of money saved up for retirement, or a nice fat pension, the disappearance of that dependable scheduled deposit into your bank account can strike a little fear in your heart. What if my expenses go up? What if I get sick? What if my spouse/partners loses his or her job? What if the government cuts social security benefits? What if my adult children keep asking for money? All legitimate questions.
Answer: Step one is to carefully chart out your expected income (pensions, social security, investment drawdowns, etc.). Use an online tool like newretirementplanner.com for this. You can then understand where potential shortfalls exist. And while you may not have the ability (or desire) to put in the hours and energy needed to totally turn your financial ship around, there are plenty of options for work or starting a business that get you closer to financial security. As Frank Eberhart put it: “The goal of retirement is to live off your assets-not on them”
Loss of connections. Assuming you follow the traditional concept of retiring by finishing your full-time career, you will probably find it difficult to stay in touch with your former work colleagues. Sure, they will promise to keep in touch and never forget you but it most often doesn’t happen that way. Likewise, if you move to a new location, you may lose touch with friends and even family. Distance does not always make the heart grow fonder and it makes those last-minute and informal gatherings almost impossible.
Answer: As discussed in my article, Choose Your Retirement Tribe Carefully, “Of the many decisions people make going into retirement, the choice of one’s ‘retirement tribe’ is often the most neglected.” AgingCare.com reported on a 2018 survey conducted by Cigna that showed that nearly half (46 percent) of 20,000 U.S. adults say that they feel alone sometimes or always. This is why you need to be very intentional about developing and maintaining your personal tribe.
Loss of health. Are you part of the “Let me tell you about my aches and pains” crowd? If not, I hope you get to avoid as many physical and/or mental maladies as possible. But it is true that good health becomes more difficult as you move into your 60’s and beyond. And while some people believe that lack of money is the biggest barrier to a happy retirement, many individuals who have faced serious medical issues will tell you that nothing is more precious than health.
Answer: While there is no guarantee that your health will be good throughout your lifetime, there are definitely some things you can do to improve your odds. Here is a great article on the subject: 10 Simple Steps to Increase Your Life Expectancy. Perhaps you didn’t know that things as simple as flossing or watching less TV can add to your longevity! If I had to boil everything I know about this subject down to three ways to maintain health, it would be: 1. Eat healthy. 2. Keep moving (especially walking). 3. Reduce stress.
Loss of purpose. When you went to work for all those years, hopefully you did so with a sense of purpose. You knew how you were contributing to your organization’s welfare, and hopefully, to the greater human community. But even those who are fortunate to enter into retirement with adequate finances, good health, and access to a compatible tribe, can find life to be rather dull and pointless if they have so sense of purpose. As Hellen Keller put it so wonderfully, “True happiness is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
Answer: Finding a retirement purpose is not the easiest thing to do. In fact, it can be quite frustrating because there is no ‘paint by numbers’ approaching to doing this. As one who has spent too much time and frustration searching for my own life purpose, I’ve found the better approach is to adopt a posture of curiosity. Find some things you are curious about, go explore them with no preconceived notions, and you may well find that elusive sense of purpose. And remember that, when you are in doubt about what you should do, it is usually better to do something instead of nothing, especially when you do so with curiosity.
Loss of adventure. In our ‘active adult’ community there are couples and individuals who take advantage of the many activities, clubs and opportunities available, and there are others who pretty much stay inside and away from others. If the non-adventuresome types are doing this intentionally, all well and good. But this is sad if they feel they have no control over the situation. Retirement is meant to be a time of life where you have fewer obligations and constraints like job and family and more time to pursue fun and meaningful adventures.
Answer: Get off your “buts”. Yes, you read that right. Don’t say: “I would have more fun, but….”, or “I would take more chances, but….”, or “I would tackle by bucket lists items, but…” Buts are just another form of excuse and you shouldn’t let yourself off the hook by settling for your own excuses. You can find adventure in many forms including work, hobbies, travel, religion, service to others, and so forth. Regardless if your adventure is to climb a mountain or take ballroom dancing, or anything in between, you won’t find it by sitting on your rear. The relevant point is that adventure doesn’t find you – you have to go embrace it.
There is no specific owner’s manual to ensure that you are not scared about retirement. Every one of us has a different set of challenges to overcome, assets to take advantage of, and dreams to fulfill. No better time to get started than right now.
Visit our retirement planning page for more ideas on how to achieve a happy and fulfilling retirement.