As folks inch closer and closer to retiring, one thing absolutely everyone asks us at some point during a meeting is, "How do I stack up to other people my age?" The reality is, it doesn't matter how you compare to anyone else, and besides, you don't get to automatically retire just because you're an above average saver, or you've hit a certain number. Comparisons to others have no place in retirement planning. What does matter is actually planning out what your retirement will look like on a daily, mundane basis.
As we help clients ease into this new phase of life, we usually see two types of clients - those who are still 110 percent invested in their jobs, and who picked a number or age arbitrarily to stop working, and those of you who aren't so fond of what you do, and you just want to get out.
For those in group one, you don't really want to retire, but you've picked that random age because your spouse asked you to, or maybe you've started going to other people's retirement parties and you had to have an answer when asked when you'd be following suit. Either way, you're not picking the date based on net worth.
Folks in group two come in and tell us they're frustrated from dealing with the trivial stuff at work, training people decades younger than they are who just don't get it, and even if they once loved what they did, they want to get out - fast - and want to know if they can.
For both of these groups, while the numbers are important to analyze, what's most important is to actually sit down and take time not just to look at your existing status, but to think about what your schedule will look like upon entering retirement. You don't have to plan your time down the nanosecond, but think about your patterns and habits. Whether you liked your job or not, most people enjoy the first few weeks or months of downtime and not even having to shower if you don't want to. But at some point, even those folks who weren't happy in their last employment situation stop and look around and say, "What am I doing? There has to be more to this!"
Even downtime requires planning. After you take the plunge and retire, go ahead and be a zen master for a month. But if you find that your hobby is still based in work, or a majority of your friends were through work, think about consulting on a part-time basis. We see far too many people retire, so excited to finally be free, only to hit stumbling blocks emotionally, mentally and physically because they don't know what to do, and shut down. This eventually can lead to an early death, as the brain and body decide they're no longer needed. We want you to have a long and healthy retirement, and that includes filling your time with activities and interests that keep you occupied and alert.
We certainly don't want you to quit a job you loved because of a random number and find yourself stuck, nor do we want you to quit a job you loathed, only to find that your value and self-worth actually did stem largely from your livelihood. We've seen too many people walk happily way from their careers, only to end up taking a minimum-wage job to feel like they're contributing in some way, or simply to get out of the house (and away from their spouse!).
Before you retire or pick that date, ask yourself, "What's my identity? Who am I now? Where does my value and self-worth come from?" Bring these thoughts to your next planning meeting so we can help you live your best life, now and after you do finally retire.