Why Retirement Should Scare You

Much of what we read and hear suggests retirement should be a wonderful time of new adventure, exciting moments and blissful days. We finally have the free time to pursue passions and explore new hobbies, rather than being forced to adhere to the dictates of a job or career. But when you think about your retirement-to-be, do you ever find yourself feeling a bit anxious? Here are six reasons you might not experience the retirement you are hoping for:

Dwindling savings. Retirees are not always financially prepared to realize the blissful retirement life they aspire to. The stock market crash of 2008 wiped out trillions of dollars in retirement accounts. When the stock market eventually bottomed out in the first quarter of 2009, retirement accounts had lost about $2.7 trillion, 31 percent of their peak 2007 value.

No more paydays. For some people, things are finally starting to get back on track. But those years of lost account growth cannot be recouped. And many people continue to struggle with no happy end in sight. Some employees have been prematurely forced from jobs due to health issues or changes in their business, short-circuiting plans to build savings accounts to fund retirement. And it’s not easy to get another job once you pass age 50. Middle-age job hunters are discovering that many companies prefer to bring in younger folks who are more affordable and cheaper to insure.

Health problems. Health concerns can become more acute as we move up the age ladder. Despite our best efforts, we are just not as capable of doing all the things we did while younger. What kind of retirement will it be if we find ourselves physically unable to take advantage of the free hours we worked so hard to achieve? It is one thing to contemplate how you will strive to accept aging and its various challenges. It is quite another to find yourself living those challenges day in and day out.

Boredom. Boredom is a real possibility for people who have grown accustomed to work filling the hours in the day. Few people have to worry about keeping busy while caught up in 8- to 12-hour days. We all know how important it is to remain active and engaged as we age to fight off the effects of aging. But what exactly are you going to do to keep engaged and active? Consider whether you have enough hobbies and interests to keep you busy during the many retirement years ahead. For those who retire at 65, 20 or more years await you in retirement. Filling those years pursuing your passions sounds excellent, unless you haven’t identified any passions to inspire your days.

End of life issues. Couples will need to adjust to the reality that one member is likely to outlive the other. After so many years spent together, the prospect of spending your remaining years without a familiar hand to hold can be terrifying. It scares me to imagine living my second act without my wife to share in moments and make them that much more special.

Dependency. Another unwelcome companion to aging can be the tendency to lose one’s independence. Whether retiring in place or navigating the roads in our cars, seemingly little things can become a struggle as we advance in years. No one wants to give up their independent living. And no one wants to be a burden on family and friends.

It sometimes scares me to think of the realities that retirement may hold. As an optimist, I hope for the best and try not to let potential negatives cloud my outlook. Perhaps if I can go into retirement with preparations for and acceptance that life will be different from what it has been to this point, I can experience some of the magic that we all search for in our second act.

From my US News & World blog. Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

What is Your Retirement Personality?

As you start to notice your age edging upward, it makes sense to feel the urge to start your retirement planning efforts. Our second act will occupy the next 20 or so years of our life, and a little preparation ahead of time might make the journey a bit smoother and perhaps even more fulfilling.

Retirement hopes and expectations often differ considerably from person to person. We have led different lives to this point, and are likely to be unique in our retirement experiences as well. Here are some ways you might choose to spend your retirement years:

Take it as it comes. This slogan depicts the nature of retirement in days gone by. Rather than a carefully laid out plan, retirement will be a time to relax, get away from the hustle and stress of work and see what the day has to offer. The focus is on living in the current moment. How many of our parents did any real retirement planning beyond taking care of their financial security? Upon reading my retirement book my dad recently commented, “Boy, I guess we were just lucky in our retirement. We didn’t do much of the planning you describe, and somehow we turned out just fine.” Yet, my parents are incredibly busy, with their shared and individual interests occupying all but a very few spare moments in their typical day.

As someone who has always had a certain fear of running out of things to do during my retired days, this course of action is a bit scary. I would be afraid that a year or two into retirement living I might become bored and disenchanted with the prospect of what is ahead for the next 20 years.

Perpetual doer. Those who retire with this motto guiding their second act plan to keep busy. Life has so much to offer, and they want to partake of everything they can while they are able to. Whatever they were unable to do while working is now theirs to experience. Take a look at their calendar and you will find little blank space. A bucket list of must-do items consumes their attention. When traveling, they will visit every possible point of interest despite any exhaustion hinted to by a partner or friend dragged along for the ride. Idle time is sometimes seen as wasted time, with fulfillment realized while in motion rather than at rest.

Being a perpetual doer requires a lot of energy along with an endless list of new and exciting things to do. It can be difficult to maintain this schedule as you age.

Work for life. This retiree is most happy while involved in the world of work. They tend to find happiness in regular interaction with others. Challenging projects stimulate them intellectually, and the successful completion of tasks is a source of satisfaction. It is not just about the money, but also the relationships that keep them coming back for more.

Those who follow this mantra do not necessarily have to be working full time. A part-time job can very well meet their needs. But the idea of not working again never crosses their minds. Until they are unable to carry on, they hope to stay at it in some meaningful way.

Another variant of this theme is phased retirement. Some people choose to reduce their work hours over time rather than an abrupt cutoff. For example, the engineering firm Stanley Consultants in Iowa allows employees to scale back their hours as they prepare to retire and move into a part-time position. With a gradual transition into part-time work or retirement, retirees can avoid what might otherwise be a shock to their lifestyle.

Combination of the above. For many retirees, the perfect retirement is a combination of these retirement styles. Rather than obsessing about doing something with every spare moment, they may seek a balance between productivity and relaxation. You can continue to pursue the items on you bucket list, but also take some time in between to catch your breath. There may be a place in our retired life for work, whether it be a project, consultation, volunteering or a part-time job. Perhaps our best chance to realize a fulfilling retirement is to mix and match the best from each profile to create our own custom version just right for us.

From my blog on US News & World. Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

Will Retirement Stress You Out?

Many people think they will no longer have stress in retirement. Safely crossing the finish line into retired life is the end goal of years spent working and saving, and we deserve to leave our troubles behind and be happy. But preparing for retirement is no guarantee that your retirement will be exciting or relaxing. Throw in the recession, the challenge of managing our own investments and thepotential for health problems and retirement could be downright stressful. Here’s what might cause you stress in retirement:

Will you have enough money? We work diligently all our lives to save for retirement, but we’ll never know if we have saved enough because we can’t predict how long we will live. There’s a scary gap between the $77,300 average Fidelity 401(k) balance and the nearly $1 million necessary to deliver $40,000 per year in retirement income. There’s plenty of financial worries that could keep you up at night including the possibility of outliving your savings, your investments taking another 20 or 30 percent hit or being unable to afford the retirement lifestyle you want.

Will your health hold out? Good health in retirement is not always in the cards. Regular exercise, a good diet and avoiding bad habits and excesses all can have a positive impact on your health, but they don’t guarantee that you will remain healthy long enough to enjoy your retirement years. We cannot always fight the effects of time and the genes we are born with.

Will you be bored with retirement life? As a retiree, I hope to wake up in the morning excited about the new day ahead. My planned activities include hobbies, exercise, travel, new restaurants and new discoveries. But not everyone enjoys unstructured free time in retirement, and it’s up to you to fill your days. Don’t wait until you retire to figure out what you will do to stay engaged and active. It is important to try new things now to find some passions and interests before you retire.

Will you lose your independence? As we age, we all face the potential loss of our independence. What could be worse than relying on others to help us through basic daily functions, let alone anything remotely challenging or interesting? Some retirees will need to leave the home they have happily lived in to head to a safe place where they will be told what to do for their own good. No one wants to be a burden on others, but sometimes we may not have a say in the matter.

Will you be lonely? Being with others is natural, healthy and fun. And the special relationship with our significant other is, for many people, a reason to go on living. But what if we do not have a special someone to accompany us into old age? Or worse yet, what if our dearest companion exits this world before we do? Going solo is a reality that many of us will face.

Retirement won’t necessarily be the happy and carefree time that many of us are hoping it will be. In some cases, watching your life savings dwindle and coping with serious health issues can be more stressful than working ever was.

From my blog on US News & World. Dave Bernard is the author of I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.