One of the most difficult and emotional times in our lives is making the transition to retirement. Sure, all of the ads make us think of freedom, buying a vineyard, going sailing or hitting the road in a Winnebago!

The reality is that although some may be able to do these types of things easily, many others struggle with the idea of no longer having an income and having to spend what they have saved their whole lives.

Another major challenge is for those who have identified themselves with what they did. What was your answer to the question, “What do you do?” If it started with “I am a …..” you may now be experiencing this first hand! How you answer that question after you retire may be as telling as when you were working.

 
 

Managing the Transition to Retirement Isn’t Easy

There is no magic wand that waves over us upon retirement. It is a major life change. There are many questions and many emotions involved. We think about how we will survive for the rest of our lives and maintain our financial and physical independence.

Below are three statement categories and 11 goals to think about. Which five retirement goals are most important to you? Select five goals from one or more of the categories. Remember, there is no “correct answer”!

Category 1 – Lifestyle and Security

Protect my lifestyle

Protect my family if I’m not around

Downsize/long term care

Income security and a safety net

Category 2 – Giving Back

Provide a lasting legacy

Minimize income taxes

Support charitable causes

Support other family members

Category 3 – Self-Actualization

Grow as a person

Improve and maintain health & wellness

Expand my passions

Fear Based Emotions

What do your answers mean? It is likely you will have some from each category. If you have mostly selected statements in the first category, you may have more fear based emotions. In fact, many people entering retirement identify more with the first category. It is no wonder as we step off into unknown territory.

You may be greatly influenced by how you experienced your own parents’ retirement or others that did not go as planned. Your overall health and that of your spouses also has a major impact upon how you perceive your retirement years.

A fear minded person tends to be unable to enjoy the moment. As a result they may miss out on doing the things that would bring greater enjoyment to their early retirement years as they are always worried about their future.

Commitment Based Emotions

If you have more in the second category, you may have more commitment based emotions. If your selection is mostly in the second category then you are likely to have a tendency to be a “giver” and care about doing well for other family members as well as for friends. Your commitment is to take care of everyone else but maybe to the exclusion of yourself. It is okay to put yourself first once in a while!

Happiness Based Emotions

If your answers fall mostly into the third category, you may be a happy go lucky individual, able to spend more freely and enjoy “the good life.” You may also be unable to recognize times when you may need to be more conservative – Pollyanna syndrome!

Comparing Goals with Your Spouse

An interesting exercise is for you and your spouse to each separately choose from the above list and then compare the results. In many cases you will find that each person has a somewhat different perception of what retirement may mean to them. It is not at all unusual to have a fear/happiness combination or a fear/committed combination.

In the end, taking a look at these statements may give you an opportunity to gain a better understanding of how you make decisions that will affect your retirement for years to come.

My suggestion is to gain better understanding of your own emotional circumstances. Then you will be able to deal with the transition to retirement and be ready to tackle the real fun stuff, like long term financial wellness!

Is your retirement what you thought it would be? Are you better or worse off than you expected? Is your health better or worse than you expected? How has this affected your goals? What advice would you give to someone who is about to go through the transition to retirement? Please join in the conversation.

Stan CoreyStan Corey is a CFP, ChFC and CPWA providing financial life management for more than 36 years. Stan has published a novel, The Divorce Dance, which is a story about a divorcing couple whereby the wife, Natalie, guides the reader though the divorce process and how to have a respectful divorce. Please visit his website.

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