You’re in the international space station and you’ve been told to suit up for your first spacewalk. The pod opens and you look out into the void and you’re told to jump. You’re excited and scared. You hold your breath and jump. Then, you wake up in your own bed. Your heart is racing and you’re relieved and slightly confused. And then you remember. Today is the first day of your retirement. You have just taken a giant leap into the unknown and you have no idea what lies ahead.
A lot of time and attention has been dedicated to financial readiness for retirement. There are thousands of articles written on what you need to do to be financially prepared. You’ll find hundreds of retirement calculators available to crunch numbers and see if you feel financially secure to retire. But financial readiness is only one aspect of retirement planning. There is also emotional readiness. Just because you can afford to retire, do you want to? If you’ve emotionally prepared yourself for retirement, hopefully you won’t have regret over your decision.
Retirement used to be considered the golden years: the last phase of your life. There was a time when people retired at age 65 and lived, perhaps, another 10 years. But today people retire at younger ages, live longer, enjoy better health and, potentially, have more income in retirement. All of this leads to retirement being the next phase of a busy, active lifestyle filled with travel, activities, but not necessarily leisure time. The mindset today is to consider retirement as a transition to the next phase of life: a beginning, not an end. Staying active socially and in your community can help you avoid isolation and enjoy a happy retirement. In the next 20 years 76 million baby boomers will retire.1 Research has shown that the transition to retirement can lead to depression in as many as one in five retirees.2
In a 2016 survey by Willis Towers Watson, retirees aged 65 or older were asked what their motivations were to retire and how they feel about retirement now.
The survey found 6 top motives for retiring:
- 64% – Personal (health, leisure and desire to enjoy retirement)
- 56% – Employer (eligibility for company pension or other employer retirement incentives)
- 24% – Normative (eligible for Social Security or government health insurance or reaching mandatory retirement age)
- 23% – Workplace (company culture/environment that leaves behind older workers, lack of enthusiasm for job or not feeling valued)
- 22% – Family (couple’s decision to retire or family member’s health)
- 14% – Job Capacity (inability to perform job due to health or other factors)
The retirees that took part in the survey retired over a period of 35 years–from the 1980s through 2014. Not surprisingly, the oldest retirees had different motivations to retire than younger retirees. Older retirees cited employer programs (retirement benefits and other incentives) as a major motivator to retire. But as retiree health and retirement programs become less generous, they have less influence on when workers retire. So for younger retirees, the motivation to retire is more likely due to eligibility for government programs or workplace disengagement.
As one would assume, those retirees who retired of their own volition had fewer negative feelings. Those who retired because of dissatisfaction with their workplace had more negative feelings about retirement. Those not emotionally prepared for retirement felt shocked by retirement or had trouble with the lack of routine or other adjustment difficulties.
So while you are planning for your financial wellbeing in retirement, don’t forget to take stock of your emotional wellbeing. Even if you are financially prepared to retire, are you emotionally ready to take that step? Retiring on your terms, when you feel ready, will go a long way toward helping you transition to this new phase of your life without regret or remorse. Prepare for the time when your life isn’t dictated by an alarm clock or a time clock. Evaluate your life and have goals, objectives and dreams in retirement. When you are ready to take that leap, don’t let fear deter you. Embrace your future knowing you are going into an exciting new chapter of your life. The world awaits, so if you are emotionally and financially ready, take the leap.
1.U.S. Census Bureau April 2014.
2. American Psychological Association, 2014.