Financial Planner 43551

The Metric System

In Articles, Retirement Thinking, Weekly Articles by Adam Cufr

Carpenters and bakers know the pain but have simply embraced it. “Because we’ve always done it this way” means we should keep doing it this way, or so the story goes. In the 1970s there was a movement to eradicate this pain, but it just didn’t stick. The metric system, they said, just wasn’t going to provide enough benefits to justify the effort to change. As a result, we still largely use the US customary system of weights and measures, even though the metric system is better. It is, unless you adore working with fractions.

I find it interesting to consider how change does or doesn’t occur. In the case of the metric system, it wasn’t required of us to change so enough of us just didn’t. But what about life changes? For example, I didn’t get to choose whether or not to go to school as a kid, that change was forced upon me. As a result, I adapted and so did you. Getting married was a change that seemed to be a choice, until after I proposed, Carie told me she already had the reception hall reserved. So, was that really a choice I’d made or an inevitability? Ah, love.

Retirement is certainly a choice for most people. Unless a corporate downsizing occurs, or a health issue arises, most people retire by choice. But like converting to the metric system after all these years, the changes that come with retirement can be fairly dramatic for some.  And while these changes are definitely worth the effort (you’re retired!), they’re still worth mentioning for those who still haven’t arrived yet:

  • Time flies like never before! In an earlier Weekly, we discussed this phenomenon of wondering how you got it all done while you were still working full-time because you’re feeling even busier in retirement!
  • Relationships change. It’s not as easy now to grab lunch with your coworker friends who used to be right down the hall. Now you have to plan things and schedule them in advance. Failure to schedule social activities can lead to loneliness for some; an unspoken frustration with retirement, studies show.
  • Shift in – or loss of – purpose. While nobody thinks they’ll be bored in retirement, it can sometimes lead to people feeling less useful and void of purpose. When a fancy job title and place in a corporate hierarchy go away, you’re now just…a person. This can sneak up on folks when they least expect it, leading to “Who am I, really?” moments.
  • Financial mindset changes. For decades you were programmed to save, save, save. In doing so, you generally enjoyed watching account values rise over time. When retirement arrives, account values may not grow as fast, or even begin to shrink as resources are utilized. This can be very difficult to manage emotionally. Questions like, “Are we going to be okay?” and “Are we going to run out?” can occupy really valuable real estate in one’s now-retired mind.

Retirement has many unique challenges that are best overcome through awareness. In other words, knowing that changes in time management, occasional bouts of loneliness and purposelessness, and savings dynamics will occur, allows you to not be caught off guard by them. In fact, you can plan for them in advance. This can lead to perseverance and greater satisfaction during the many, many good times.

By the way, we can thank Thomas Jefferson for committing us to the US customary system as opposed to the metric system. He said it was “too French” and lobbied to avoid using it altogether. I suppose helping my kids learn fractions when doing math homework together is a useful bonding experience, and what would we do with all of our tape measures?

All the best,

Adam Cufr Signature
Adam Cufr, RICP®


Adam Cufr, RICP® (Retirement Income Certified Professional®) is a financial advisor and founding principal of Fourth Dimension Financial Group, LLC providing personal finance and retirement planning services. Adam is a Columnist for Retirement Advisor Magazine. He is also a sought-after media commentator and thought leader. Adam was named one of The 20 Most Creative People In Insurance in 2015 and is a columnist for Retirement Advisor Magazine and the author of Off the Record – Secrets to Building a Successful Retirement and a Lasting Legacy.

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