Anyone considering retirement, or who has retired in the recent past, understands that there is a lot to this decision. Sure, having enough money is an important part of this equation, but there is much more to consider. Once your company throws you a retirement party, your life will be forever changed.
Figuring out if you can and should retire takes some work. I recently attended an insightful talk where the speaker had researched this topic in depth before retiring himself. He learned so much that he now coaches other potential retirees.
In his experience, there are four main questions you need to ask, and to which you must be able to answer “yes,” before you take this step.
First, do you have enough? Money, that is. To answer this question, you need clarity on your desired lifestyle and what your future income and expenses will be. Your portfolio needs to be positioned correctly to support you for the remainder of your lifetime. You also need to cover your risks so that some unknown and unpredictable event doesn’t unravel a secure future.
Second, have you had enough? Work, that is. Have you reached the stage where you are not excited to continue the daily routine? Are you looking for a change and dream about being able to do what you want, when you want?
A transition between full-time work and no work is a good idea. The shock of going all-out one day to doing nothing the next can cause depression and frustration. Your company may allow you to phase into working part-time to ease this transition. This is often a win-win, as you still get a paycheck and the company benefits from your acquired expertise and having time to replace you.
Third, do you know what you will do? With your time, that is. Do you have hobbies? Do you have friends outside of work as well? Feeling useful and valued is important. Maybe you have skills that your favorite nonprofit is looking for. Perhaps you can take care of grandkids part-time and make life easier for your adult children.
This side of retirement planning may be the most difficult. Many of us come to define ourselves by what we do and the title we hold at work. Much of our “social” life may actually revolve around our career, perhaps providing exciting opportunities for travel and networking. Figure out how you can fill those needs once you no longer are in the workplace.
Fourth, does your spouse want you around? At home 24/7, that is. Be sure to include your spouse in your retirement discussions. He or she may be used to having the house to themselves and don’t want you there all day long. Does your spouse expect you to do grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning or other long-postponed tasks when your plan is to be on the river fishing?
If you and your spouse have both worked and contributed to the household financially, there may be some resentment that this burden will now fall solely on one of you. Even if money is not the issue, the expectation that you contribute and be productive can be strong. Your spouse may get upset if you are simply playing every day while he or she is not.
Retirement is a skill to be developed, and you should practice before you jump in head-first. Take some time off and do the things you expect to do with your day once you officially retire. Find out if you are content traveling, playing golf, fishing or making furniture.
Retirement should be a happy time of your life. If you do your planning and can answer yes to the preceding four questions, you will set yourself up for success.
This commentary originally appeared November 2 on TheCasperStarTribune.com
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