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Beyond the Numbers: The Hidden Truth of Retirement

So you have worked your entire adult life and you are preparing your speech before the water cooler because now is the time… time to retire! 

In our previous post on the “History of Retirement”, we explored that the idea of retirement had actually been Hidden Truth of Retirementaround much longer than might be expected. However, the widespread adoption of retiring at an early and arbitrary age such as at age 60 or 65 is fairly modern. 

For the modern worker, the “concept” of retirement seems exciting, especially for those who might not be enjoying their careers as much as they once did, or for those who are getting to a point where they are physically unable to continue in the workforce, or those just looking forward to a life of leisure. According to Fidelity, the pursuit of leisure and leaving stress from work are two of the strongest indicators for retirement time frames.

Whatever the reason, retirement for some, from concept-to-reality, will be an exciting but often difficult transition from worker to retiree.

Removing the common burdens of planning for retirement such as 1) having enough saved, 2) making big decisions around when to claim Social Security, 3) choosing where to retire, and 4) choosing when to retire, there is still the lingering question once one retires: “What now”? 

A simple enough question, but a question nonetheless is quick to take one down the proverbial rabbit hole. According to research conducted by the University College London as well as Kings College London, while retiring can have health benefits for those who have had stressful careers, or physically demanding work, retiring can also have negative effects on cognitive functions. So while retiring in-and-of itself is not necessarily a bad experience, the old adage “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose”, remains true. 

The Early Bird Gets the Tequila Worm – Not the Dinner Special

Assuming money is not an issue in retirement, the primary concern of every retiree should be their health. Mental and physical health are vital to a fulfilling retirement and so at My Financial Coach we have created a list of ideas to help inspire current and soon-to-be retirees

1. Phased Retirement – As a person approaches retirement they often face the dilemma of when and how to leave the workforce. While ageism continues to be a problem in the workplace, more employers are beginning to embrace retaining older employees who have decades of experience or have had the time to build lasting relationships with clients. 

For those who would welcome a change of pace and a reduced workload, but still have a passion in their line of work, they may ask employers to offer the ability to “phase” into retirement. This might entail reducing responsibilities, shifting from the front-lines to a leadership or mentor role, or just simply reducing the number of hours or days they work.

2. Working Part-time/Consulting – Currently the United States has more than 20 percent of those over the age of 65 working into the foreseeable future. This is a trend that is expected to continue, and while for some working past 65 may be a necessity, for many others, it is an opportunity to try something new, or apply current skills in a new way. 

In fact there are many jobs that seem perfect for those who want to pass on their skills through teaching or influencing companies through consulting. Aside from additional income, working part-time also provides a sense of community and purpose

3. Adult Education – Leaving the workforce, particularly if one works in an industry where continued education is a requirement, often leaves an appetite for learning. Even if there are no plans to launch a second career, going back to college can be quite rewarding. 

School can provide great opportunities to become involved with the community on campus and meet new people. Many individuals form bonds and share their knowledge and experiences with others. Though campus life might seem more suitable to a younger  demographic, surprisingly many older individuals are active in higher education. Adult Education centers are also beginning to pop up at an increased rate. Even my alma mater, Arizona State University, has revealed plans for an intergenerational community center, Mirabella, that merges independent living facilities with a collegiate flair.  

While going back to school might be a bit more expensive than other past-times, families may already have resources. Many people may have opened up College Savings 529s for their own children and there may be some residual funds remaining that retirees can use for themselves. For those that are still years out from retirement, they can also establish a new Section 529 for retirement education. Unlike other college savings plans, there are no age restrictions. Should families open a new 529 and decide not to go to school, retirees can shift it over to another relative such as a child or grandchild

4. Hobbies – For most of our adult lives we find our time being pulled in many directions, whether it be from work, family, home maintenance, or ongoing education and training. While many will wish for more free time in these crucial years, once the time comes, it is not uncommon to suddenly have no idea how to cope with having free time.

While one could spend the better part of retirement catching up on the many television shows now streaming, it is also important to find hobbies that though entertaining are also stimulating and/or allow for some social interaction. Some traditional retirement hobbies that might come to mind are playing Bridge, crocheting, woodworking, or birdwatching. Though some retirees may still enjoy some of these activities, preferences are modernizing. 

Today’s retirees are crossing off bucket lists to travel to new places and experience new cultures. Some retirees have a passion for raising animals such as dog breeding or even cattle ranching. Others are revisiting or starting a new found passion for computer gaming and video games

In fact electronic gaming is quickly becoming a favorite among retirees who can benefit from social interaction with other gamers of all ages. Some games may even be able to help curb memory loss and improve hand-eye coordination. Lastly, for retirees with mobility issues, there has been an increasing amount of new software and hardware including virtual reality to allow users to have new experiences from the comfort of their home. 

Whatever a retiree has a passion toward, it’s important to engage in activities that are both fun and fulfilling. Jefferson Bank recently wrote an article that captured “The Benefits of having a hobby later in life”, citing the following benefits: 1) Physical activity leads to better health, 2) It will sharpen your mind, 3) Productivity is good for those used to always going, 4) Social connection promotes happiness, 5) It will relieve stress.  

5. Volunteering – Giving back to the community is one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have. In our working years, it is often hard to balance work, family, home maintenance, and leisure when we add on the added responsibility of volunteering. Although there are many organizations that will let retirees donate their time at their leisure, there are many more that ask for a dedicated commitment. As a result, volunteering tends to take the backseat in our working years. However, once you retire, volunteering can be a great candidate to ride shotgun in adding a real sense of purpose and community in retirement. 

If a retiree is a particularly social person, volunteering in retirement can provide great opportunities to act as a foster grandparent if they enjoy working with children. They can also volunteer to act as a companion to other seniors who may have mobility issues, or need help with certain activities. If a retiree loves teaching there are also opportunities to travel abroad and teach English, or if a retiree is musically talented they can bring the gift of music to those in need of cheering up. 

There are also more traditional programs such as Habitat for Humanity, which is a great way to meet new people and work with others for the common goal of providing shelter to the less privileged. There are also many chapters of well organized charities such as the American Red Cross, Peace Corps, and Meals on Wheels that are always looking for help. Volunteering for the National Park services is also a popular organization, particularly as it also may come with the potential for a free annual pass!

Opportunities to give back are all around, and when in doubt it never hurts to ask around. Local hospitals, schools, and libraries are always looking for volunteers, and of course local directories, and the Internet can broaden search opportunities even further. CheatSheet recently created an excellent guide to some of the most widely recognized volunteer organizations. I would encourage anyone who is interested in volunteering to use this as a starting point. 

Volunteering is rewarding, and as much as it helps others, it is also a great source of community, reinforcing or building new skills, and gives purposes as well as strengthens cognitive skills in retirement. 

6. Family/Friends – Deciding where to retire is a huge decision that comes with many questions. Everything from cost, to climate, to closeness to necessary facilities (hospitals, groceries stores, and other establishments) as well as closeness to friends and family. 

Due to some of these choices, not everyone has the luxury of retiring near their friends and family. In those situations, it is important to still maintain these vital relationships, even when distance factors in. According to a survey by Gransnet in cooperation with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, nearly three-quarters of seniors have at one point reported a feeling of isolation or loneliness. 

The reason this number can skyrocket among seniors is that often between being married and/or having children they are often more likely to have an active social calendar during these pivotal years. Once the children move out however (empty nester syndrome aside), there are also the risks of a late-in-life divorce or “grey” divorce, or having to face becoming a widow(er) early into retirement. 

Fortunately today more-than-ever, there are many options for staying connected. When distance separates us from friends and family, traveling or hosting those able to travel to us is a great way to maintain relationships.

While traveling is great, it is not always an option, and so technology can be a great way to fill in as needed. Today, more retirees are turning to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram to keep up among their peers and family. In a research survey conducted back in 2016, Pew Research found that nearly half of all seniors had a smartphone. In the years since this survey was conducted, those numbers have grown and services such as Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, and others have been vital in offering face-to-face interaction no matter how many miles separate us. 

Among those who are privileged to live near friends and family, it is encouraged to keep an active “social” calendar. Many retirees might make meeting up for dinners, cocktails, a round of golf, or an evening to the movies a regular event. For those who do not have local friends and family, do not fret, as many of the items such as volunteering and hobbies in the above list can help build new and meaningful relationships

Ultimately, retirement is a journey best taken when retirees have a strong support system of friends and family who can bring balance and joy to what just might be the best years of their life.    

Finding Your Sunset

There is no one “perfect” retirement. If nothing else, retirement is a deeply personal and reflective moment in a person’s life. For some the very idea of retirement is leisure-a margarita in one hand, and a good book in another. Someone else might envision bouncing a grandchild on their knee. Others still might dream of opening a sea-side bed-and-breakfast. There are no wrong answers for retirement, and the only “right” answer is what feels right.

At My Financial Coach, we will never say no to retirement dreams, but rather help our clients draw a roadmap to achieve them. Planning for the future allows retirees to lay down a strong financial foundation that helps make retirement not an insurmountable responsibility, but a well earned certainty.

With that said, I end this article with a piece of “borrowed” wisdom:

“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” – Bill Waterson, Calvin & Hobbes


Andrew J. Crosby, CFP®, ChFC®, RICP®

Lead Financial Coach



  1. The Fidelity Investments Decision to Retire research represents insights from a series of in-depth interviews conducted in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco and from an online survey of more than 12,000 defined contribution plan participants recordkept by Fidelity, ranging in age from 55 to 80 across all industries and income levels, who felt they had some control over their decision to retire. The research was completed in 2015 by Greenwald & Associates, Inc., an independent third-party research firm. Fidelity also worked in collaboration with the Stanford Center on Longevity on the study.





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