Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Surprises in Retirement

If you are not yet retired, what do you think it will be like when you finally walk away from your job for the last time?  If you have already retired, did it turn out to be what you expected?  What surprised you the most?  Were the surprises pleasant or disappointing?

Most people find that at least some aspects of retirement were not quite what they expected.  Some people were disappointed and lonely.  Other people were delighted by how quickly their lives become filled with new activities.

The varying reactions to retirement may be a result of different personalities.  In other cases, it could be because of inadequate financial resources, which make it tough to "live the dream."  Whatever the reason, below are some of the surprises many people have expressed about retirement.  If you are not retired yet, knowing what has surprised other people may help you better prepare for retirement; if you have retired, it may help you realize you are not alone in what you are experiencing and it may not be too late to make changes which will help you enjoy your retirement more.

What Surprises People Most about Retirement

Loss of Self-Worth - We had a neighbor whose father came to stay with her after retirement.  He was very quiet and kept to himself.  My neighbor told me her father was depressed and out-of-sorts because he had retired from a job as the Superintendent of Schools for a large school district.  He had literally supervised thousands of employees until the day he retired.  Afterwards, he felt "worthless" and didn't know what to do with himself.  While he could have turned his energies towards volunteering, local politics, or finding other ways to help people, he just hung around her house and remained depressed.  People need to have a reason to get up each morning if they want to have a satisfying retirement.

It Can be Easier than Expected to Leave Your Job Behind - On the other had, after working decades for a company, many people are surprised at how quickly they can put the past behind them and find new activities, interests and friends.  The people who are able to leave the past behind seem to flow more smoothly into retirement.  Surprisingly few people talk much about their former career once they retire.

It is Expensive to Retire - If you have been telling yourself you will be comfortable living on half, or even 80 percent, of your current income, you may be shocked to learn that the amount of income you need will be just as high as it was while you were working.  It is true you will not spend as much on the cost of commuting to a job, buying lunches from restaurants, or maintaining a work wardrobe.  However, these cost savings could be replaced by expenses related to engaging in new hobbies, eating more meals at home, traveling, and spending more for medical expenses.  In particular, Medicare premiums could be higher than expected and will shoot up dramatically if you get a financial windfall (taking a retirement buyout or selling stocks), because you will be required to pay a Medicare surcharge.  Those who opt to purchase a Medicare supplement may be surprised by the cost, as well.

Financial Planning Really Does Pay Off - Those retirees who had the self-discipline to put aside a nest egg for retirement are often pleased to discover their plan worked out well for them after retirement.  In the same way, those who managed to pay off all or most of their debt prior to retirement are also happy to see the difference it makes in the quality of their retirement, and how much easier it is for them to ride out the ups and downs in the economy.  For example, if your home temporarily loses value during a recession, it is not as stressful if you do not have a large mortgage against it. For those who have not been able to save as much as they hoped prior to retiring from their career, many retirees are surprised to discover how easy and rewarding it is to find a part-time job after retirement.

Your Health Can Improve - Many people find that having the time to play golf, take exercise classes, focus on their diet and visit their doctor has made it possible for them to lose weight and improve their health, especially during the first few years after retirement.  It is not unusual in the retirement community where I live to hear people say they never thought it could be so easy to walk 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day or participate in swimming and tennis competitions.

It Can Be Painful to Face Mortality - People who never thought about how much longer they might live while they were still working, can become overwhelmed and depressed when they develop a serious illness or lose a spouse or close friend.  Visiting friends in skilled nursing facilities or attending their funerals forces many retirees to face their own mortality.  While some people are at peace with their own mortality, others become depressed.

It is Easier than Expected to Make New Friends - Many retirees are hesitant to move to new locations when they first retire because they believe it will be hard for them to make new friends.  However, since retirement also means having more free time, most retirees have discovered it is easier than ever for them to take classes, join clubs, volunteer, and spend time with other people. In addition, having more free time also leaves you free to attend weddings, birthday parties, the baptisms of grandchildren and other special events with friends and family. Most new retirees find they have more time than ever to spend with old friends and they are able to make new friends, as well.  For those who have lost a spouse, it is not unusual for them to begin dating again and even remarry.

If you are interested in learning more about retirement planning, where to retire, common medical issues, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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Photo credit:  Photo of Laguna Woods Village golf course taken by author

Some info based on Wall Street Journal report "The Biggest Surprises in Retirement," Feb. 13, 2017.

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