While many employed individuals in the United States assume that transitioning into retirement will be a straightforward process once their financial matters are sorted, the reality is quite different. A significant number of retirees encounter challenges in discovering purpose and combating monotony after retiring.
Some relationships gradually fade with longtime colleagues who share similar perspectives. There exist profound uncertainties regarding how to occupy the time that once spanned eight to ten hours of work from Monday to Friday. Moreover, retirees must confront their mortality alongside the physical and mental hurdles accompanying aging.
Numerous working Americans believe that orchestrating a financially secure retirement will ensure a smooth journey. However, the truth is that many individuals grapple with the quest for meaning and avoiding boredom once they’ve retired. This transition unveils “retirement planning blind spots” for those who fail to envision their post-work life comprehensively. Even substantial financial stability cannot guarantee a gratifying retirement experience.
Eric Weigel and Fritz Gilbert convey this cautionary message in the recent episode of Morningstar’s The Long View podcast, hosted by Christine Benz and Jeff Ptak. Fritz, Both have written books on the psychological complexities of retirement planning and collaborated on a survey targeting retirees and pre-retirees to uncover potential blind spots in retirement planning.
The results of their survey, as relayed by Weigel and Gilbert, are a mixture of insightful revelations and expected findings, a product of their prolonged focus on retirement transitions. They emphasize that people frequently overestimate their ability to glide seamlessly and joyfully into retirement. Nevertheless, those who engage in thorough pre-retirement planning activities often find fulfillment and purpose in their later years.
Weigel and Gilbert underline that their new survey data, combined with their experiences as aging individuals, underscores that planning for one’s lifestyle is as crucial as financial planning in pursuing retirement contentment.
Insights from the Survey
Weigel and Gilbert explain their motivation for collaborating on the survey, pointing out the scarcity of focused research on this subject. The survey boasts a near-even division between retirees and pre-retirees, with 54% being retirees. Among this group, half retired within the last two years, offering a fresh perspective on the transition. Additionally, 45% of pre-retirees were actively planning their retirement, with half preparing to retire in the next two years.
Lost Connections as a Challenge
According to Gilbert and Weigel, a prominent area where many respondents admitted their planning could have been more thorough pertains to replacing work-related connections. This aspect garnered the highest response rate among retirees who felt unprepared, with 36% citing this concern. Notably, 62% of retirees expressed missing the social dimension of their work, highlighting an unanticipated blind spot. In contrast, only 29% of pre-retirees expected this to be challenging.
The survey also reveals that 57% of retirees harbor apprehensions about unexpected health or family emergencies, whereas only 43% of pre-retirees share the same concerns. This finding underscores the necessity for retirees to recognize the likelihood of health-related situations as they age, necessitating proactive planning to stay fit and active.
Pursuing Meaning and Purpose
As Gilbert and Weigel conveyed, the survey’s central takeaway is that advisors should encourage clients to cultivate relationships that will endure post-retirement deliberately. This involves engagement in social groups, charitable endeavors, and revitalizing connections. Around a third of respondents admitted they could have better incorporated a sense of meaning and purpose into their retirements, suggesting that planning for this aspect requires attention.