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Ready for Retirement?

Retirement can be a surprisingly stressful time. According to t, several of the top ten life stressors tend to occur in our older years, including: the death of a spouse, the death of close family members, personal illness or injury, and even retirement itself (without considering the other factors).

You would think that after working all those years and putting money aside that you’d be stress-free and ready to play, to do all the fun stuff you’ve been putting off. But as someone who works primarily with retirees, I’ve seen this type of stress too often. In fact when a reporter for U.S. News and World Report interviewed me for an article called, “How Do You Know When You Are Ready to Retire?,” the stress that can come with retirement was one of the first things that came to mind.

What’s behind that stress (apart from the other factors mentioned)? I think I have a pretty good idea, and it’s not necessarily about the money. I’ve noticed that after hearing that they have the money needed to retire, very few clients walk out of my office and go directly to their company and say they’re retiring. In fact, it takes most of them about six months to actually retire. Why is that?

I have a theory: When clients visit us five or ten years before retirement, we put together a plan. We figure out that they should save an extra $500 a month or maximize their pension pay, etc. It’s a very quantitative, logical exercise. There’s some emotion involved at this stage of retirement planning, but it’s a small percentage: I’d say about 15 percent emotion and 85 percent logic. But once I tell people that they’re financially ready to retire, I see those percentages flip. People become very emotional. It makes sense. Many people’s personas are tied up in their careers. Social networks often revolve around work friends and colleagues. Retirees usually spend more time with their spouses (which can be a good thing, or not). There are a lot of emotions around those issues.

Luckily, I have retirement planning advice that I think can make that time less emotional and therefore less stressful. Begin rehearsing your retirement before you retire. Don’t wait until the last moment, but start thinking now about how you want to spend your days. Do you want to volunteer? To move to a different town? To improve your golf game? Start thinking about your retirement activities now (and start doing them now, if possible) so you develop an emotional attachment to your post-retirement life, and lessen your attachment to your work life.

You can’t avoid retirement-related stress altogether, but you can look at retirement as a journey. And by managing that journey, I think you can help yourself get ready to retire.