Written by: Judi Snyder, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
You are counting the days and the dollars to your big Freedom Day — the day you “retire.” The truth is most of us never really retire. We just move on to the second act. If you are a Boomer like me, you may be in “retirement” almost as long as you were in your career. This is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing; finally, we get to do what we want and not what others expect of us or what we think we “should” do. The curse; we worry about outliving our money or giving it all back to Uncle Sam. Few of us consider five elements of retirement, and money is only one of them. Not addressing ALL FIVE of these elements may leave us unhappy, unfulfilled, insecure, and financially or physically not able to afford the bucket list we’ve been composing over the years.
We have a preparedness plan for almost everything we do “except” retirement! We think because we’ve completed an estate plan, we are good to go. Money and “stuff” are only one element of our retirement planning, albeit an important one.
What if I shared the single biggest distress of Boomer retirees with you is their lack of purpose or no longer feeling relevant? All the money in the world can’t make you feel differently unless you plan your new purpose and give it as much thought and importance as your estate plan.
We spend so much of our adult lives having our “purpose” determined by other people. We are either working for a company, working for our customers, clients, patients, raising children, or taking care of aging parents and family members. When these roles wane, we don’t really know who we are or what our value is. When our career determines our “relevancy,” we will be disappointed when the career ends, even if we count down the days. As a Financial Transitionist, “who will I be” is the most asked question from my clients. We are afraid of the “unknown,” and who we are without the title IS the unknown. Recently a client said to me “I’m afraid I will sit on the couch all day, watching TV, eating my way into obesity then die. I don’t know who I am without working because I’ve worked since I was 14”. Most of us never have to think about “who we are and what brings us joy” because work and family obligations took precedence. Let’s explore our five elements with an open and inquisitive mind.
The first element is examining your spirituality, and I’m not just talking about your “external spirituality” or religious beliefs. I think most boomers are pretty comfortable with our individual beliefs in a higher power. I suggest we look at our “internal spiritual beliefs” or our values that drive our behavior. Internal spirituality or drivers are the values we place on God, relationships, family, peace of mind, service, bravery, professionalism, freedom, consistency…the list is vast, and it is very personal to you. There are many value exercises on the web that you can use to determine your top values. I would take all the words that resonate with you and narrow them down to the top five by grouping similar values together. For example, philanthropy and generosity can be one. Next, start the “if this but not that” for your top five to arrange in order of importance. If you are married or have a partner, this is a great exercise to do together over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. If you are like me and my husband Jeff, you will find that your core top values may be the same, but your number one value may differ. Understanding each other’s internal spirituality or value system will help you understand why we make or avoid making certain decisions and determine who does what in the relationship based on one’s strengths and convictions.
The second element of a happy and fulfilling retirement is determining your new “purpose.” The enlightenment you get by doing a values exercise will help you exponentially. Here are a few questions that I recommend journaling:
1. What makes me happy or brings me joy?
2. What do my friends and family always seek my advice on? What do people say I do really well?
3. What is it that when I’m doing it, time flies by so fast it feels like a few minutes?
These questions can start to clue you in on how you can plan retirement activities, hobbies, and trips that fill your heart and give you purpose. So many successful life-changing people started their new ventures after the age of 50! People like Henry Ford, Charles Darwin, Julia Child, Colonel Sanders, Martha Stewart, Louise Hay, and so many more! Why not you? They didn’t start thinking they would change the world; they just did what they loved and the world changed. You may be a positive influence on only one person who ends up changing the world!
The third element and perhaps THE most important is your health and wellbeing. If you don’t have your health, your wealth cannot do anything for your joy. As we age, our eyesight, hearing, and mobility may decline. This doesn’t mean we stop tending to our health and exercise just because we can’t do it the same way! We can find alternatives and make adjustments. For example, if you have knee issues, you can replace tennis with pickleball or take a yoga or Pilates class rather than running a half marathon.
Our diet becomes even more important as we age than when we were young and burning the candle at both ends. As we get older, our pancreas gets tired and unable to process sugar or carbohydrates the way it used to. This can lead to hormonal changes, diabetes, pre-diabetes, or insulin resistance which can cause us to feel lethargic and even confused. Whatever “way of eating” you choose you may want to consider lower carbohydrate foods and make the carbs you eat count by choosing healthy vegetables, legumes, and nutrient-rich fruits. Eliminate processed foods as much as possible by sticking to the outer isles of the grocery store. You may also consider adding supplements or multi-vitamin to your daily routine. I’m not a doctor and always recommend consulting your physician before taking any supplements or implementing any dietary changes. Your doctor will know your health conditions and recommend the best supplements and ways of eating for your optimal health. Most people believe exercise, or lack thereof, is the primary factor in weight control, but our way of eating determines 80% of the results!
If exercise only impacts 20% of our weight control, why should you care? Staying active is important for bone density and heart health, making all the difference in how you feel as you age. One of my favorite exercise hacks that help me stay active and accountable is my fitness tracker and streaming subscriptions. I walk 60 minutes a day on a treadmill and download to my phone an action-filled series from my favorite streaming channels. I watch the episodes while I’m walking on the treadmill to pass the time, and it flies on by! I discovered an added benefit; I tend to walk faster because of the “action.” I only allow myself to watch my shows on the treadmill, so I look forward to returning to the gym the next day to see what happens! The result…I haven’t missed a day in three and a half years!
The fourth element to upsizing your joy in retirement is social connections. Your friends and social activities may change. Work friends may not keep in touch as often, or not at all, because you no longer have as much in common with them. Once you leave your company or industry, your topics of interest change. Notice as you are interacting with your work friends how much of your conversation is actually on topics outside the work environment? Start to develop a friends’ network outside your work such as book clubs, card clubs like bridge or euchre, pickleball leagues etc... Meet-up.com is a good place to find groups that share your interest.
Another discovery is that the newly retired experience is not so enamored with your spouse or partner once you are together 24/7. Being together all day when you haven’t been for years is an opportunity to examine how you want to spend your time together. Not preparing for the sudden 24/7 “togetherness” along with today’s increased life expectancy has contributed to the increase in “uncoupling.” Divorce rates of those over 50 (newly called Gray Divorce) have roughly doubled over the last 25 years. Incorporate your spouse/partner into your life before retirement and find activities you enjoy together. Likewise, encourage each other to cultivate friends and activities with others that you don’t have to do as a couple. This becomes vitally important if/when one passes away before the other. Lastly, talk about each other’s need for “alone” time, so it is not a surprise when retirement comes. Do you remember element one, your internal spirituality or personal driving values? Knowing each other’s guiding values helps tremendously when seeking activities and socializing as a retired couple.
Travel needs and considerations change. Consider your physical fitness for “bucket list” trips and prioritize the more “physical” ones to experience sooner rather than later. One client lamented that they dreamed of going to Greece for 25 years and when they finally retired and went on the trip, they were not as physically fit as they could have been to enjoy the walking tours, trekking up the Parthenon, and snorkeling the Greek Islands. I recommend having a “curious list” rather than a “bucket list.” When I think of a bucket list, I think travel and money. The times we are living in now prohibit many types of travel even if you have the money. By writing a “curious” list, you are free to take adventures in other ways, for example, learning a new language or exploring a new hobby like quilting or kayaking. You may decide mentoring a young adult or volunteering at the food bank would be fun…you are only limited by your imagination.
Our fifth and last element, which has likely led you to become part of the Retirement Architecture Family, is money. Just as “our” life purpose changes, so does our “money” purpose change. We go from accumulation and growth to preservation and income generation, and your mindset can be tricky to navigate around this change. When we are in the earning phase of life, it masks our money gremlins, but as soon as we “retire” to the spending phase of life, that money gremlin rears its ugly head. All sorts of emotions come out of nowhere. Scarcity mentality shows up even for people who have millions. This happens when we feel out of control and cannot anticipate future obstacles. This has never been more evident than it is now with our current political and covid19 crisis. What can we do to mitigate our inner gremlin?
Often a second opinion can add a new perspective when you are embarking on a new adventure. Many people become fearful of spending and develop anxiety around any activities that require money because they know they will not be “earning” the way they have been in their career. We don’t still go to a Pediatrician for our medical care, but that doesn’t mean our Pediatrician was a bad doctor. Likewise, our money may need different expertise as well, expertise on retirement income, taxes, and inflation. The uncertainty of inflation and taxes weigh heavy on the feeling of security and rob you of your retirement dreams.
Developing a purpose for your “required” and “desired” income and executing a plan to deliver the amount you need for the rest of your life that is guaranteed will give you the certainty to continue your lifestyle without worry. You can purchase your own pension, which will guarantee your retirement paycheck that you can never outlive and provide for long-term care benefits, even if you can’t qualify medically at this time in your life. Your “Live.2.100” Retirement Blueprint will illustrate how you can protect and safely grow your hard-earned nest egg without having to worry about the uncertainty of taxes and inflation and not have to give back a big chunk of your social security. Certainty of income, reducing or eliminating taxes, creating a volatility buffer, and planning your legacy can reduce your fear and anxiety and increase your financial security enormously.
Welcome to the Retirement Architecture Family! Your homework is to explore your internal spirituality and values by doing a “values exercise.” Next month we can dive deeper into helping you discover your purpose, which will give this next phase of your life meaning and joy because it’s always about more than the money!
Judi Snyder, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Judi is a retirement and transition coach, helping people nearing or in retirement find purpose, wellness, and financial certainty in their golden years. In 2004, she transitioned from employee to entrepreneur into financial services. Because of her own transition, she understands the unique challenges of creating a new identity and purpose. Judi became a CeFT®, Certified Financial Transitionist®, to further enhance her solutions for those going through financial transition and address the financial aspects of transition. Becoming a CPRC, Certified Professional Retirement Coach, expanded her tool chest to help clients navigate through the non-financial aspects of retirement, such as finding purpose, exploring spirituality, and health and wellness, which are as important as the financial planning yet rarely addressed. Happiness and fulfillment are about more than money.
References:  https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newted_85.htm  https://twentytwowords.com/biggest-successes-late-in-life/  https://www.marketwatch.com/story/your-failing-marriage-is-about-to-make-the-retirement-crisis-worse-2017-03-13