What If I Reach Retirement And Hate It?

What If I Reach Retirement And Hate It?

May 18, 2016

Can you imagine fearing retirement once you're actually in it? It's more legitimate and common than you realize, even as you have a blank canvas for mapping out the rest of your life by engaging in retirement planning.

Allow me to illustrate from a client conversation and you'll see what I mean.

Recently, I was contacted by a 401(k) plan participant from a company that I serve as the Chief Retirement Officer for. I've had the pleasure of speaking at his company several times and he attends our Webcasts periodically.

Like many people we tend to work with who are approaching retirement, it was natural to expect this gentleman and his wife to have questions when they arrived at our office.

Sure enough, with a tone of slight anxiety, the questions from them came – all within the first 5 minutes of sitting down:

"Do you think we have enough money to retire? If not now, when?"

"When should we take social security?"

"How do we take income from our accounts to replace our paycheck?"

"Where should we invest?"

A decision to stop working can definitely cause some anxiety, especially in terms of how to coordinate the transition to retire smoothly. However, that's often only part of the reason why people have such stress. The thought of what to do with their time in retirement causes people just as much concern and worry as the days leading up to it.

Once I dug a little deeper with some questions of my own for him, I found that my client feared how he would fill his time in retirement. He was shocked by this development because he'd pictured retirement to be the ultimate reward for so long. After all, he didn't want to work forever. Why would retirement itself be so stressful to someone who had planned so well for it?

The concept is hard for some people to reconcile when they think of a time in their lives where they could be kicking back and enjoying the fruits of their labor. You're not working long hours anymore. You can spend more time doing things you enjoy, like playing golf or traveling. What's so bad about that?

The reality is this: We spend so much of our lifetimes working that our careers tend to define us in some ways. Yes, work has its challenging chapters and pace, but there are also aspects of it that are safe and dependable. It's also the kind of work you've likely been very passionate about for a number of years.

In contrast, the prospect of retirement, as exciting as it can be, also brings its own uncertainty. The consistency of a daily routine is gone. The work that drives your passions is no longer present. You may go from interacting with a group of people counting on you to possibly feeling no longer needed.

Notice that some of these feelings I'm describing have nothing to do with money. Yet it's crucial to make what drives these emotions a part of our plan for helping you achieve a successful retirement.

In my view, anyone can have a retirement that's both secure and wonderfully fulfilling if they focus on two things: Vision and planning. Let's start with the first.


When you take the time to reflect on what's important to you, what core values rise to the surface first?

As you think about the next phase of your life, what role does family, health, spirituality, relationships, helping others and more have in that picture? One by one, define these areas by priority, importance and how passionate you are about them. Knowing where your values are can bring a lot more clarity to the answers to questions like the following:

Do you want to continue working to some extent? If so, do you want to work in the same career or try something new?

Do you want to volunteer?

Do you want pursue adult learning?

Where do you want to live if family is spread out?

What inspires you the most in life?

The vision of what you truly value and want to have in retirement is starting to come together. Now we need to ensure it's part of a concrete plan and not merely ambiguous wishes, hopes and dreams hanging in the air. Which is where our second element comes in.


When plans merge with values, the picture of how you want to allocate your time in the next phase of life comes into greater focus.

For example, you may find you love being involved in a charity and enjoy the feeling of continuous learning of adult education classes. You also come to the realization that you don't want to stop working entirely and that a certain kind of part-time employment is a happy medium for you.

With these values in mind and understanding that these are the things that you are happiest doing, how much of your time would you like to devote to each? This is what we call a re-engagement strategy – a plan for re-engaging life after a career. Are we missing anything? What else do we want to incorporate? Where do we need to make adjustments to allow time for those other enjoyable things you've always wanted to do?

Some people would rather keep retirement very open-ended, which is a natural instinct. Maybe you've never thought retirement planning to include how you would specifically spend retirement itself. Really, one of the top questions you've probably had around retirement is: Can I make it and with enough money? Yet, that's incomplete. For the sake of the smoothest transition possible, it deserves to be more than a dollars-and-cents discussion where you envision the many days beyond retirement, not just reaching the first one.

Let's chart a course that includes what you genuinely value and how you'll utilize your time doing those things you enjoy most. It's a combination that should make retirement even more exciting when you get there. To arrange a meeting to talk more about this with us, call Fiduciary Financial Partners today at 630.780.1534.

Nick Economos, CRPS is a dedicated independent Financial Advisor and Chief Retirement Officer at Fiduciary Financial Partners. He has a wealth of expertise in designing qualified retirement plans and participant education programs.