You've heard of a financial retirement calculator. But what about figuring out whether you're psychologically, not just fiscally, ready?
"We see retirement as another stage of life, much like when you go from childhood to adolescence," says psychologist Louis Primavera, dean of the school of health sciences at Touro College in Bay Shore, N.Y., and co-author of The Retirement Maze: What You Should Know Before and After You Retire.
To find out what you and your family should ask yourselves before you take this step, Family Goes Strong talked with Primavera. Excerpts:
What do family members tend to think when you retire?
"Grandpa and grandma retired. They can watch the kids all the time!" I love my grandchildren, but I don't know that I'd want to be there seven days a week. Been there, done that.
In your book, you talk about loss of identity.
Think about if you go to a party and someone says, "Joe, what do you do?" That can be very much part of your life. About half of people's social circle revolves around work. Often people will try to maintain it, and they can maintain some of it. [But] once you're gone, people don't want you hanging around the workplace.
Your book says half of people say they didn't plan enough for retirement.
Only about one out of 10 people really thoroughly plan.
What about financially planning for it?
Without the money, you really don't have the permission to retire. I suggest you go to a financial adviser. Write down any time you spend money. You begin to sense what your spending patterns are. Which ones are related to work? Dry cleaning, clothes, lunches. Some of that goes away in retirement, but then there will be other things that come into play. If you want to play an instrument, you have to pay for lessons.
But retirement issues go far beyond money, right?
Money is only a smart part of it. There are issues of what are you going to do with your time. Family dynamics change. The wife has had her life planned out, and her social life, and her work schedules. Now hubby is home, and things are going to change dramatically. We have a story about several women who go out to lunch and discuss their husbands' impending retirement, and they're not happy.
So how do you not get in each other's hair?
You have to recognize that there are potential issues, and you have to address them. "OK, this is what we're going to do." It's very important for any couple to have time outside of the relationship. It becomes more important once they retire because of the amount of time they have.
So what's the best way to plan for it?
You have to have some purpose and direction in your life. It's never one thing. It's a whole group of things. You've got to increase your social circle. That becomes very important. You know other retirees? Form a little social group. You'll have social interactions and you can talk about some of the issues that come up... People who don't do well in retirement kind of walk into it. All of the sudden, it hits them. "I have all the time in the world." That's a whole different way of thinking.
What are other secrets to a happy retirement?
Manage your expectations. "I'm going to relax and sleep late." That wears out. They want a long vacation, and after awhile that wears out, and they have to reorient themselves. What are you going to do with your time? People who rely on family for their social contacts don't get as adjusted as people with a variety of social relationships.
What about medical issues?
People who are pushed into retirement because of health don't necessarily have a really good time with it.
When you need to retire depends somewhat on your profession, too, right?
If you're in a blue-collar career where you're doing lots of physical work, it comes upon you. My dad retired at 88. He was a tailor. I don't think it was such a good thing." That generation didn't have other interests other than work and family. How do you find meaning in your post-retirement life?
Think about reinventing yourself. What are the kinds of things I'm going to find some joy in? We have a story in the book of a police captain who retired. He got together with some other guys ad they looked for missing persons. They don't get paid, but he feels a sense of accomplishment and pride in that. Some people find it in volunteer work. Other people really don't feel good unless they're getting paid. We talk about something called a bridge job. You work part-time. There are people who even work full-time and then begin to phase it out. The difference is the attitude.
You also talk about people who are too negative about retirement.
[They say] "I retired. I'm dead. I'm old. I'm finished." One said to me, "Can we use another word besides retirement because it has such a negative connotation?" Figuring out who you are is difficult for many people. I'm not the surgeon. I'm not the shoemaker. I was that, and maybe I did it very successfully. I've moved to a different stage of my life.
Have you tried a financial retirement calculator? If not, try this one from the AARP.
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