I used to joke that my retirement plan was to develop a taste for Alpo . . .
by Larry Gard, Ph.D
The problem is, the longer that I delayed meeting with a financial planner and grappling with some emotionally difficult decisions, the more likely it was that my dogs and I would be sharing a bowl at some point.
This morning I spoke to 150 staff at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) about the emotional side of retirement. I was concerned that the topic would be too disheartening but one gentleman thanked me afterward saying, “you hit the nail on the head.” I asked him to explain and he said, “all the things you mentioned about this transition have been troubling me and I thought perhaps I was crazy, but now I realize they are reasonable and valid concerns.”
People put off retirement planning because they think of it as something very far in the future. They convince themselves that when the “time is right” they will focus their attention on retirement planning. If you wait until it feels right, you might be waiting a long time. Planning is crucial and it’s complex, and how we deal with this transition is as much a psychological matter as it is a financial one.
Depending on your health, retirement could be the longest phase of your life. Far longer than adolescence. Longer perhaps than young adulthood or middle age. But the fact is, most of us spend more time planning our kitchen renovation, our daughter’s wedding, or investigating which new set of golf clubs to buy than we do psychologically planning and preparing ourselves for retirement.
Planning for retirement involves managing uncertainty, grappling with choices, and making decisions. All of these things can be difficult and draining, particularly if you try to do them by yourself. If you’re part of a couple, there is the added possibility that your interests and priorities may have diverged over time. Don’t delude yourself that this major life event will work itself out. By all means meet with professionals who can assist you with financial and legal preparations. But don’t overlook the head and heart side of the equation. Schedule time with an adviser who can help you sort through the emotions that are part of this transition.
If you are age 50+ and thinking of making a business or personal transition, download our FREE How Ready Are You? Assessment or click the image below:
Larry Gard is a Chicago-based Consulting Psychologist who helps organizations and their employees successfully manage business and personal transitions. He is also an STPI-certified Transition Advisor.