Recently, a television interviewer was speaking with Matthew, a prominent person in his community about retirement. Matthew was very well known as a politician and member of the town council and had been actively involved in community events for the past three decades. He was also 65 and was going to retire in the next month.
When he was asked why he is retiring even though he loved what he did and was much admired, Matthew sighed and said, “well, it’s probably time. I am hitting 65 now and haven’t really given any time to my wife or family. I have a vacation home on the ocean that I never get to and places around the world that I should see.”
Clearly, Matthew gave the impression that he actually didn’t want to quit what he was doing; in fact, he used the words “it’s time” several times during the interview.
So you are leaving work.
It sounds pretty attractive, doesn’t it? Just think, no more having to get up in the morning when you don’t want to, looking forward to weekends as a break from work because now, every day is going to be Saturday.
Most retiring boomers are very clear on what they are retiring FROM. Unfortunately, they are not always clear on what they are retiring TO. The notion of retirement has always been presented as such a gift, a right-of-passage and deliverance from the yoke of the workplace. In fact, many romanticize the idea of retiring and treat the idea of not working as the ultimate reward.
The dictionary defines work as “exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil.” In our society, work is seen by many to be a negative thing that has ruled our lives for much of our adult life. The idea of retiring from work and “never having to work again” is at the foundation of a lot of retirement dreams.
But these days, people like Scott, with his work free retirement vision, are being overshadowed by a new view of retirement. Research conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) suggests that:
- 8 in 10 baby boomers plan to work at least part-time “in retirement”
- 5% anticipate working full-time at a new job or career
- Only 16% say they will not work at all.
- A 2013 survey by NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 47 percent of working Americans over 50 plan to delay retirement for at least three years, until 66, and 82 percent of those surveyed said they expect to have to work for some income even after they retire.
What are you going to miss most about work?
“Planning a successful transition requires you to be completely honest with the significance of work in your life. When work is no longer your major endeavor, seek out ways to replace the contribution it makes to your life.”
Depending on our experiences in the workplace, we all reframe our view of “work” and “retirement” in different ways. Positive perceptions of work then begin to be associated with negative perception of retirement and vice versa.
There are four main factors that may dictate how you feel about leaving work and entering retirement:
- Unfinished business at work. You may be involved in projects that have engaged you and are yet to be completed. You could be excited about new opportunities that have arisen, and you view retirement as an end to your enthusiasm. However, you may not feel that work has any positive rewards for you anymore and that there is nothing left to finish except for your career.
- Job satisfaction. You may love what you do at work, in fact you live for it! Now you contemplate walking away from one of the things in life that give you the most enjoyment. On the negative, you may get no satisfaction from what you do and probably haven’t been challenged for a long time.
- Financial situation. You have a sense of financial comfort in the workplace, and are used to getting a steady paycheck, bonuses or commission. You know that you don’t have to worry about maintaining your lifestyle as long as you have a job. On the other hand, you may feel that you have more than enough money to walk away and since you don’t get anything out of work anyway, why not retire?
- Health. You feel good, and you get a lot of energy from your work. You feel you could keep going for a long time because “age” is just “a state of mind.” On the flip side, you no longer have the health to continue to work and you are starting to feel older than your years.
We tend to reframe our view of “work” and “retirement” based on our experiences in these areas. As you look at your work, how do you feel about what you get out of the workplace?
“But why would I want to do that?” asked Mary, a 54 year-old school teacher I recently spoke with who is anxious to get out of the classroom. “The fact is that I don’t like to work, period, and I have spent far too long in a stressful environment that has robbed me of my desire to do anything further.”
Mary is typical of a lot of pre-retirees who have focused on their retirement as a release from a stressful or unsatisfying career. They know what they don’t like about the workplace and, while they still haven’t settled on a vision for what their retirement will look like, they feel that “anything beats working!”
“I know that retirement is on the horizon,” said sixty-year old Joel in one of our meetings. “The problem that I have is that I don’t really look forward to not having a place to go or things to do in retirement. Everyone else seems to be so excited about leaving work, but I really like what I do.”
Why are you retiring?
Why are you retiring from your present situation? There is no right or wrong answer. Most Americans have a career that has an end to it, whether by their choice or the choice of their company. Often, that date is tied to a pension plan or an age or related to the number of years you have worked in a given situation. Maybe your reason is that you have enough financial security so that you “never have to work again.”
A lot of boomers underestimate the importance of work because they focus on the prize at the end of the rainbow. It is easy to “demonize” our work because we have always been taught that retirement is a form of deliverance from the yoke of our work. People who enjoyed their work find themselves walking away for no reason other than, “it’s time!”
However, there are some excuses that justify retirement that come from the traditional view of retirement that is increasingly irrelevant for today’s boomers.
We retire because we are old?
If you are in good health, whether male or female, you can expect to live well into your late eighties.
The picture of what it means to be old has changed considerably. If you want to compare apples to apples, we can use the same relationship between longevity and retirement age used back in 1935. According to that relationship, the retirement age today for males should not be age 65, but somewhere in the late eighties.
We aren’t old at age 65, and we certainly are not like previous generations. Author Gail Sheehy notes that “today’s fifty is yesterday’s forty.” As a result, our concept of “old” has undergone a complete rework.
We retire because we can no longer contribute?
It may have once been true that we retired when we could no longer contribute. In those days, we were paid only for what we did. In today’s knowledge society, however, many Americans also get paid for what they know.
Experience counts and is valued by many companies. One of the big crises faced by businesses is the loss of a tremendous bank of experience as baby boomers get set to leave the workforce. For example, it is estimated that more than 55% of American teachers are now over the age of 45.
A study on the challenge of retaining older workers found that many Americans could have been persuaded to stay at work. More than 25% of people who retired between 2012 and 2018 said they would have continued working had they been able to reduce their work schedule, either by working fewer days or by working shorter days, without their pension being affected.
Similarly, 28% would have continued working if they had been offered part-time employment. About 27% might have been tempted to keep working if their health had been better, while 21% would have stayed if their salary had been increased, although they were not asked by how much.
We retire because we want to enjoy our golden years?
Everyone likes a long weekend. Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy a 30-year-long weekend? If our golden years are defined as that time in our lives when we can put our feet up and watch the sunsets, wouldn’t we want to relax for that length of time? As we will see later, the “paradox of leisure” is that if we have leisure 24 hours a day forever, where is our break?
And that’s the problem. We have been trained to equate leisure with happiness, forgetting that many value leisure because it is a break from what we normally do. For example, we look forward to vacations because they give us a chance to do what we want, when we want. We are free from the demands of our jobs and can pursue our own interests.
Joseph F. Falbo, CFP®, AIF®, CRC® is an independent LPL financial advisor that helps grow and preserve clients’ wealth using cutting edge, customized, and comprehensive strategies. With over two decades of experience, Joe helps clients to pursue and retain the lifestyle they want in retirement. To discuss your retirement goals or any financial topic you want, schedule a 20-minute complimentary call. To learn more about Joe, please visit falbowealth.com.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual