Many people can envision their retirement, spending time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies or travel, and generally taking it easy.
But what if considering retirement makes you anxious when everyone else expects you to be excited?
Our financial advisors would like you to know that this feeling is typical among retirees. The Birchwood team shared some common “fears” clients have faced as they neared retirement and some resources to help overcome them.
No Regular Paycheck
Dana Brewer: Not having a paycheck coming in each month can be scary; some clients prefer we create a paycheck-like income source and distribute money monthly from their investments. We commonly refer to these as retirement paychecks.
Bridget Handke: Clients who haven’t had us set up these retirement paychecks can sometimes feel paralyzed, not wanting to touch their pile of money. That makes them anxious and unsure of how much money to spend. Once we set up a retirement paycheck, that helps to relieve the anxiety.
Being concerned about running out of money is also a fear, even for people with sizable assets. This fear may be the case if you are not as well-versed in investments or are new to being in charge of your money.
Rachel Infante: I like to use the term retirement “play-check” to remind clients that their hard-earned money should go towards living expenses, but also what they value, whether supporting charitable causes or traveling with friends and family.
Clients often aren’t sure what retirement will initially look like from a spending standpoint. Sometimes it takes a year or two to settle into what feels like normal spending.
Damian Winther: I’m also a big fan of creating the paycheck during retirement. A recurring income stream may help to make the transition less emotional and stressful.
I also like having detailed conversations regarding early-retirement years, since most people tend to spend more than they originally planned. This increased spending might result from their age, health, and built-up demand for things they pushed off during their working years.
Loss of Purpose
Damian: How clients stay busy during retirement can be a major concern. Some people are happy golfing, seeing a blank calendar, or going wherever the day may take them. Others need to be kept busy and active. Having a game plan is incredibly important.
Both spouses retiring at the same time can also create issues. Only some can go from spending evenings and weekends together to spending every waking minute together. This change is something spouses need to discuss.
Bridget: It can be difficult to envision the future beyond work if clients have spent years in a big or stressful job. They haven’t had the brain capacity to think about retirement. Once they retire, there can be an adjustment period.
Rachel: It may be hard to give up the structured timeline a job offers that retirement may not. People thrive over time on having things to get up for in the morning. It’s fun not to wake up to an alarm clock anymore, but filling your day with a new purpose can be an adjustment.
Dana: Because retirement is a major life event, finding support in discovering your purpose may be helpful. These support services are becoming more common. For example, Birchwood has partnered with Retirement Coach Ruth Tongen to discuss meaningful retirement. I’m also seeing more local organizations like the Edina Chamber offering community events like this Purpose Summit. Talk to your financial advisor if they have any resources that may be helpful.
It’s important to remember that your fears around retirement are normal, and support is available to work through them. Even if it feels silly or you can’t quite place a finger on what scares you about retirement, talking with a trusted resource or professional like your financial advisor may provide some clarity.
Many clients find that retirement is a good time to tackle projects that they have been putting off while working—like updating their estate plan.
Kimmie Moehring: We see clients who want to ensure that their wishes are followed after they're gone, but they can be overwhelmed and unsure where to start. Estate planning is the best gift you could give to your loved ones—it prevents your loved ones from having to make complex decisions while grieving your loss. Not having a Will can lead to confusion, disputes between family members, fees, lengthy estate settling, and additional tension during the grieving process. We encourage everyone to create an estate plan early and revisit it often.
Finally, we want to share a retirement perspective from one of our own. After guiding clients for years as a financial advisor, Kay Kramer, Birchwood's Retired Founder, shared her journey preparing for retirement and advice fifteen months later.