As part of our leadership series, we sat down with a financial advisor at BPS Financial Services, Chris Shea, to discuss five ways employees can prepare for retirement including self-identification, finances, social plans, personal relationships, plus health and nutrition.
These five things create an outline of sorts that can help make the process of planning for your retirement more approachable and less intimidating.
Because after all, that’s why we tend to not think about retirement. It requires us to think about getting older and that’s an uncomfortable thought for many of us to think about. It’s probably right up there with establishing a will.
Here is what you need to know to help you retire well.
What is your definition of retirement?
You might automatically jump to images of travel, living on a vineyard, or a pair of rocking chairs on an idyllic porch. Perhaps you focus on the ideal age when a pension can be accessed or you see others in your career stepping back. You might even be one of the few who never intend to stop working because you love your career.
However, it is easier to plan for your retirement if you start with a broader definition that focuses on being able to do what you want, when you want, without any concern about the finances required to do so.
Many employees who are early in their careers or have more immediate financial concerns tend to think of retirement in the distant future. The first step towards retiring well should begin as you enter the office. And it starts with a little introspection.
What is it you want in life? Where do you find your identity? Is it your career and what you can offer? Are you perhaps a little too caught up in the present hustle that you aren’t looking beyond towards the bigger picture?
If everything is focused on the “now” and you find your value in finite circumstances, retirement can easily sneak up on you.
Most people who are of working age tend to identify themselves in their careers. Think about it: what’s the first question people usually ask when meeting someone for the first time? What do you do for work? But when you are ready to retire, then what? Creating a new identity outside of what you did for four or five decades can suddenly seem scary.
Next, consider key relationships including with your partner, children, siblings, and grandchildren that will impact your retirement. Do you have expectations of how much you would like to do together versus how much time you spend alone?
Before COVID-19, many couples envisioned their retirement as spending copious amounts of time together. However, as the pandemic revealed, people started to realize the importance of alone time.
In many ways, the pandemic fractured the original perception of what retirement would entail. As such, when considering retirement, you need to consider what you will do by yourself and what you will do as a couple within that personal relationship.
This is where the social aspect of retirement planning happens. Stretching beyond your home, consider what types of activities you would like to do with friends and peers in retirement. Do you have any expectations for memberships or activities?
As the pandemic exposed, people need social interaction, as the side effects of isolation or being constantly at home have led to higher rates of anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Social activities include everything from clubs to vacations to mentoring services and volunteer work. Some of these items cost nothing while others might need to lead into your financial planning so you can continue your social engagements.
All of these social activities can offer human interaction that people need in every life stage but particularly when family members aren’t able to visit as frequently.
Health and nutrition
We all tend to have a little fear about getting bad news from the doctor. So, while you can do your best to live a healthy lifestyle, engaging regularly with your healthcare provider can make you better equipped to handle whatever comes your way once you reach retirement age. Corrective action now can prevent a health crisis in the future.
As you look toward retirement, also consider your family medical history. Does your family have a high rate of heart disease or cancer? Does your family live to 100+ and thus you might need to factor in 40 or more years of retirement into your plans?
While several factors contribute to health conditions, genetics does play a big role and can help you plan accordingly. If you aren’t sure, you can always consult with a doctor who can advise you of your genetic risk level for certain ailments.
Without knowing your current risk factors, you can’t combat harmful diseases in the future, let alone prepare the resources you may need to take care of yourself.
Every single factor already discussed ties into finances. Yet, most people only consider savings, 401k, social security, and pension when planning for retirement, so we wanted to start with contributing elements first.
Now that we’ve briefly examined four additional areas to plan for, let’s talk finances.
Break out your general living costs from anticipated health costs as you prepare. In addition, make sure you factor in inflation as that will dramatically impact the cost of medications and procedures.
Be realistic with what you save, contribute to social security, and can expect from your multitude of sources. A financial advisor (such as Chris Shea) can help you think through the exact numbers to plan for that will support your post-retirement identity, relationships, social engagement, health concerns, and lifestyle. However, start doing the work now so that when it comes down to examining exact numbers, you already have an idea of what financial freedom will require.
Because, at the very least, this will provide you with a baseline of the finances you’ll need to live conveniently and with purpose.
Life stages before and after retirement
Finally, outside of the five factors to consider when planning for retirement, think through the life stages that come before and after you leave the workforce. Ideally, start planning right now so you have plenty of years to save, prepare, and revise.
As you get closer, have a more aggressive savings plan and regularly meet with a financial planner to make sure you are set up towards the post-work life you’ve always wanted.
If you wait to plan for retirement a year before you do so, you’re going to most likely run into financial stress not to mention mental and physical strain which will not serve you well.
Additionally, consider the various stages of retirement as you plan. Life won’t look the same at 103 as it did when you were freshly retired at 68.
The first season of retirement is usually busy. With your newly found free time, you’re going on trips and you’re going out to dinner more often. You’re basically doing all the activities you either put off or couldn’t do because of work or home-life obligations.
Then, in your second season of retirement, your activities often start to slow down. Instead of flying somewhere or sightseeing, you might take a leisurely cruise instead, pick up a new hobby that requires less effort, or host your visitors locally.
As you reach your later years, your energy level, desires, and social connections will continue to shift. You might find yourself traveling much less, if at all. Instead, your social interaction might come in the form of your family visiting you at your home or picking you up to bring you back to their house for a visit because you’re unable to drive.
If you plan for the different stages, you will be able to more readily enjoy each season without constant worry about finances.
Ready to start planning?
Studies have shown that those that retire without a plan for retirement suffer more than those who actively plan for retirement1,2,3,4. As the median age for retirement increases, companies aren’t necessarily taking the time to teach employees of any age about retirement. And since it’s not something we learned in childhood, many of us go unprepared. This helps no one.
While thinking about retirement can be scary, it’s important to address it now. These tips can help you best prepare for what’s to come, so you can enjoy retirement doing what you want when you want.
To get started in closely examining the five areas outlined here today, we invite you to take the initial assessment on Chris Shea’s Fit to Retire platform, here. If you’d like to keep learning more about financial saving strategies and ways to prepare for your retirement on Burnalong, we’ve got some great classes waiting for you.
No matter what, you aren’t alone as you prepare. We are here to support you every step along the way.
About the author:
Chris Shea is a Financial Advisor offering securities and advisory services through Cetera Advisors LLC, member FINRA/SIPC, a broker/dealer and Registered Investment Adviser. Cetera is under separate ownership from any other named entity. Branch: 20 CORPORATE WOODS BLVD 2ND FL, LOUDONVILLE, NY 12211
All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. There is no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful.
1: Studies have found that people involved with social and leisure activities or with hobbies may live longer and lower their risk for health problems including dementia (National Institute on Aging)
2: 24.8 percent of seniors who feel isolated and unhappy also report declines in their ability to perform activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, meal prep, etc.). Seniors who do not experience loneliness only report a 12.5 percent decline in activities of daily living. (University of California)
3: People who exercise regularly report decreased rates of depression, lowered pain, and less anxiety. (Mayo Clinic)
4: People who have satisfying relationships have been shown to be happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer. In contrast, having few social ties is associated with depression, cognitive decline, and premature death. (Harvard Women’s Health Watch)