I recently met with a client who retires in 13 months’ time. If you’ve read anything I’ve written, you’ll know I distinguish between the concepts of “retiring from” and “retiring to”. So, true to form, the discussion came up: “What is it that you are retiring to?” I asked.
My client is excited. He has an idea for a consulting business that will see him using what he’s learnt over the last 20 years, offering his skills and services to the private sector. It’s something inspiring for him to retire “to”. But it won’t be on a full-time basis – and it won’t give him the equivalent of his current income. This means that he’ll need to start drawing an income from his investments.
It’s about more than the money
This is the where the real acceptance needs to kick in. In my experience, there’s an emotional adjustment that has to be made. This sounds simple enough, right? Because we all know that the day finally does come. Isn’t that what we’ve been planning towards for the last 40 years?
Trust me when I say this: no matter how prepared you are, retirement still comes as a shock. Regardless of how much you save, you have to be up for the change. Or changes. There’s a mental adjustment: you’ve spent decades saving and now you need to start spending it.
Then there’s the emotional – and financial – reality around the probability of you never working again. And even if you do work, chances are you’ll earn far less in retirement than you did while formally employed.
Another emotional shift is our sense of worth and how we perceive the value we add to our families. If you’ve been the provider for many years, you might struggle with how you derive self-worth. If this is you, please be encouraged: you only have the money you have now because of your foresight and discipline. The value you add continues into the future because of this very fact.
But, the money is important
Another financial shift you’ll need to make? Realising that there is no point in drawing from your investments – only to put savings aside from that. It’s financially unwise, so just draw down less to start with.
My client admitted that some of these challenges are going to be real for him. He reminded me of his first money memory. It was something his dad taught him – that a fool and his money are soon parted – and it weighed heavily on him. What if he acted foolishly? Could he wisely manage drawing down from his investments?
This is why having an actual RetiremeantTM plan – and not just a string of investments – is essential. You need to know that you have enough so that the fear of running out doesn’t stop you from living.
But I promise you: this will not be enough to convince you – regardless of how disciplined about saving and investing you’ve been. You’ll still need to be open to change. But it takes time to accept a new reality, so be kind to yourself. It takes time to amend a mindset that has served you so well all these years. Remember, though, why you saved and invested in the first place – so that one day you could have the freedom to choose what you were going to do with your time, your money enabling that life. In the bigger scheme of life, your money is the “small change” that sets the tone for the big change – changes – you’ll need to embrace.
Change is hard. Not many people like change. But you are not alone as you face what’s ahead. If you don’t feel ready for the retirement road ahead, please book some time with me. Let’s talk small change – and big change – over a cappuccino.