Adjusting Your Retirement Mindset
How to Manage Common Challenges in this Phase of Life
At Peak Financial Freedom Group, we work with people every day who are preparing for retirement. We talk about when they’d like to retire, any goals they have, and what they envision their retirement lifestyle looking like. We review things like assets and liabilities, and we discuss cash flow. We use conservative risk-reduction strategies to help them protect their investments and provide the opportunity for growth. In short, we help our clients start working toward achieving the financial freedom they desire so they can enjoy a retirement free of money fears.
Alongside all this financial preparation, though, we have found that it’s also important to prepare your mindset for retirement. It represents a significant life change – and a massive psychological shift, too. That’s why you shouldn’t go into this phase of life unprepared from any standpoint. So, let’s discuss a few common mindset issues, and what near-retirees and recent retirees can do to overcome them.
An Inability to ‘Switch Off”
Retirement should feel like a reward after a long and arduous working life. Why then, is it so hard for some retirees to “switch off” work-mode and enjoy a new, more relaxed pace? The truth is, you might think you’re ready for a life of leisure, but such a sudden change in your schedule can lead to boredom, anxiety, and even loneliness. This is especially true if you haven’t taken the time to be intentional about turning off your work-mode and putting some serious thought into what you want out of retirement. If you’re planning to retire soon, think through what your days and weeks will actually look like. Chances are, your golf hobby won’t fill eight hours a day. So, create a routine for yourself that will help you manage your days, including your newfound free time. You don’t need to have every hour of the day filled, but add in some structure to help you transition to enjoying a less hectic lifestyle. Make the most of small moments, like drinking your coffee each day, and consider making an effort to add social time with friends or family every week.
Going from Accumulator to Spender
You’ve spent decades saving towards your retirement goals, probably making sacrifices along the way, too. If you’ve been successful, it probably has a lot to do with having developed good financial habits. This is why, when many retirees stop working – and therefore stop accumulating and saving – they can’t get over the mental barrier that tells them they are savers, not spenders. Many people even feel guilty for taking distributions from pensions or retirement accounts because doing so feels in opposition to the ingrained mindset they had for thirty or more years. Of course, many retirees also fear running out of money. The best thing you can do to smooth the transition from accumulator to spender is to make sure you have a thorough, written retirement plan that spells out your annual plan for utilizing your nest egg while also keeping yourself financially secure.
Uncoupling Your Personal Identity from Your Career
Think about when you’re introducing yourself to someone new at an event or community function. Most likely, you lead with your job title or your industry. This can be especially true if you own your own business and feel a strong emotional connection to it. Your work is a big piece of who you are, and there’s nothing wrong with that. When you’ve been working for many years, especially if it’s in a career you find meaningful, it’s only natural that it should become a part of you. In fact, in many ways, building your identity on the foundation of your work makes you better at what you do.
Once you retire, however, this same mindset can become problematic. It’s one of the reasons that so many retirees struggle with depression. They don’t take the time before retirement to think about who they really are outside of work, or to develop and find meaning in the other facets of their lives. If you want to avoid falling victim to this common challenge, dig deep and ask yourself questions like:
- Outside of my role at work, what other parts of my life make me feel productive?
- What activities or daily tasks, big or small, bring me joy?
- What new things do I want to learn, do, or become in this phase of my life?
You may come to realize that being a really present and supportive grandparent feels right to you, or that you want to level up your baking game now that you have time. The details are different for every retiree. The important thing is to identify a new foundation or two to build your identity and self-worth on and put more focus on those areas.
Changes in Your Relationship with Your Spouse or Partner
When you’re spending 40 or more hours a week apart, retiring and spending much more time with your spouse or partner seems appealing. You can take those trips you’ve always dreamed about, enjoy your leisure time together, and finally experience that relaxing retirement you always envisioned. However, retirement proves to be a challenging time for many couples. It’s often due to the fact that, not only are you spending more time together, but the balance of household responsibilities is likely changing. This is particularly true if one spouse retires before the other.
Open and honest communication is the best way to ensure your relationship remains strong when you enter this new phase of life. Be clear about the details, like who will do the cooking and cleaning, and be intentional about planning to spend time both together and apart. The more you can get on the same page before retirement, the better you’ll be able to adjust when the time comes.
Final Thoughts on Developing Your Retirement Mindset
Retirement should be a time in your life that you look forward to. It should feel like a significant achievement, not a time of stress and anxiety. As you plan financially for this chapter of your life, be sure to be intentional about preparing for the psychological and emotional changes you’ll experience, too. Just as with your finances, a little thoughtful planning goes a long way.