December 2014: Back to the Basics

In Back to the Basics, December 2014, Income Planning by Adam Cufr

Golfing-AheadBack to the Basics – Seven Factors in Determining Retirement Age

Retirement means something a bit different to everyone. To some, it’s a financial finish line. To others, retirement represents a transition from paid work to volunteer work. Whatever it means to you and those close to you, retirement happens, whether by choice or by force.

As a person nears “retirement age’ a litany of decisions arise that must be carefully considered before making major retirement planning choices. Numbers, as it turns out, are just one of many factors. Here we’ll touch on seven factors to consider when determining the retirement age that may be right for you or a loved one.

1. Financial
Of course the financial realities of one’s life have a huge impact on retirement. After all, retirement from paid work or financial retirement (continuing to work after financial independence has been reached) both require adequate sources of income to meet living expenses. It is here where Social Security claiming decisions, pension decisions, investment income planning, annuity funding, IRA distribution planning, etc. must be built into a holistic and comprehensive strategy. For many, the main question is simply this: “Do we have enough money to retire?”

2. Physical
All the money in the world can’t fix a bad back or a degenerative disease. The physical realities of aging eventually push all of us from the workforce. Considering one’s frailty and family history may prompt an earlier retirement in order to reduce the demands of daily work. Alternatively, family longevity may cause others to stay at work for many more years. These factors can have a major impact on retirement choices.

3. Psychological
The pace of many careers has intensified. For some who may have imagined remaining in their career past retirement age, the demands of vocational change may be daunting and stressful. Considering staying on for a few more years may be enough to inspire serious doubt about how long this can continue and remain sane. Have you ever had one of those weeks when you thought you might just lose it? Maybe one of those years? It’s important to give psychological factors the attention they deserve. After all, quality of life may become more compelling than quantity of stuff.

4. Social
This can go either way. If your five closest friends are preparing to retire this year and you’re not, social pressures may begin to mount. Conversely, being the only one of your circle of friends who is retired can lead to some awfully lonely Wednesday afternoons in front of the TV. Over the years, we often lockstep with those closest to us. When it comes to retirement time, social factors cannot be ignored and can either make retirement decisions more fun or simply lead to greater isolation from friends.

5. Spiritual
Different faiths have different views on what retirement means. Coming to terms with what you truly believe about your role in the world, in your family, and in the community may very well have an impact on how you choose to address retirement and financial independence. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself “What do I believe about retirement?”

6. Personal
Beyond money, the personal decisions surrounding retirement often receive the most press. Does retirement mean golf to you? Maybe retirement equals travel or time spent with the grand kids. This is the time to take inventory of your list of things you want to do with the time you have left. A common challenge for retirees results when they have not done the same amount of planning about their retirement than they did to get to retirement. It’s like planning for months to take a trip only to jump in the car and realize that you forgot to choose the trip’s destination. Now what?
It’s also very common for business owners to pour every ounce of themselves into their business while neglecting the rest of their life. When they receive an offer to buy the business, allowing them to retire, they suddenly realize that they have nothing to retire to.

7. Familial
Although wonderful fodder for jokes, when one spouse plans to retire years before the other is ready, strange things happen. This is a time when having many deliberate discussions with your spouse can begin to clear up misunderstandings and lack of clarity concerning what retirement is and what it should look like – for you.

Ultimately, retirement planning is most often discussed as a mathematical and financial event. Certainly, the numbers need to be right and competent retirement planning counsel should be sought out to ensure it is done properly. If it begins to feel like it’s all about the numbers, it may be time to step back and take a broader view. After all, do-overs during retirement can be frustrating and expensive.

Let’s try to get this right the first time, shall we?