|By Winthrop Quigley, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.|
I'm two years away from
Nonetheless, retirement makes me nervous. I've worked since I was 12 years old. I've been a fanatical saver and investor over the years, but I've never been much of a spender. I don't really have any hobbies because my jobs always have been more fun than any recreation I could devise.
Bonnie is nervous, too. While I'm quite at ease with our financial position, she is not entirely convinced we can weather any storm the economy might conjure up.
Some day she'd like to leave the house we've lived in since 1980 and join an attractive community of compatible retired people who can support each other as we all age gracefully, perhaps in a small college town in the Midwest. I lack imagination and have few ideas of my own, so I spend my time grumbling that I like our house and don't want to live in any elder community.
Who knew that there is more to retirement than funding your IRA? Much more.
Experts: That's typical
As it happens, our anxiety is pretty typical. In a life of transitions, from early marriage to establishing careers to buying a home to raising children, retirement is one of the biggest, said Ingrid Roosild, a certified retirement counselor with
"Everything could be running smoothly until you hit retirement," she said. "In retirement, all the rules change."
Your children are usually no longer your main concern. The personal identity that came with working is going away, Roosild said.
"It's almost as if you're starting all over as newlyweds," she said. "You have to find a whole new way to compromise and get your personalities to reconcile again. At retirement age, it might be harder to adapt and change."
Couples approaching retirement "tend to get desperate about it because it looks like the end game," said
Couples who became financially secure probably did so by accumulating and avoiding spending, Shelton said. In retirement, at least some of those accumulated assets will have to be spent.
"In many households, usually there is one spouse who harbors some quiet fear over spending accumulated assets," he said.
For some, Roosild said, the adjustment to retirement can become more serious than a fear of spending.
"Sometimes retirement ends up breaking up marriages," she said.
Couples might have shared common goals throughout a marriage, only to find that at retirement they want very different things.
"It usually has to do with one person feeling they have been sacrificing in the marriage the whole time. Now it's their turn to do it their way," Roosild said.
"A classic example is the kind of house you live in. It can be a real deal breaker. A lot of time I hear, 'I didn't want to live in that big house; it's a burden.' Or, 'We always lived in these small places; I want to live someplace nice now.' "
Ganas said it's easy for couples to "get stuck" when talking about the transition to retirement.
"When people talk about changes, having to make decisions, where they'll get stuck is in getting attached to an outcome. They'll come up with an idea of what it should look like," he said.
"They'll disagree in the particulars of that. Fixing the problem before the problem is defined is one of the big places we get stuck, in my experience."
Before discussing what house to live in or how much money is needed to retire, couples should discuss, "What are we talking about?" Ganas said. "What are our goals? What are our values? What do we agree on?"
If one spouse has a need for security and the other needs to start having fun, they need to explain to each other what security and fun mean. Then, Ganas said, each spouse has to decide what can be done to support the other's goals.
The conversation should begin at a theoretical level, he said. If it devolves into arguments over details, return the conversation to things you agree upon.
Take stock of assets
Couples can overcome feelings of financial insecurity by looking at their assets in two parts, Roosild said. Some assets are guaranteed.
Determine what you need to survive and see if those guaranteed assets are sufficient to cover the minimum you'll need in retirement, Roosild said.
Then look at the rest of your assets, those that might vary in value over time as stock market or economic conditions change. That part of your portfolio can be set aside for fun, she said.
Shelton said it's important to make sure your assets really are up to the goals you set for retirement. Your lifestyle will change in retirement, he said, and so must your budget.
"Golfing three days a week in retirement is a lot different from golfing twice a month while you're working," he said.
It also helps if you practice retirement before you actually retire, Shelton said. Take some time off work, perhaps even some unpaid leave "to test what retirement is going to be like on a day-to-day basis. What will be the new daily reality at home between couples?"
Couples who are afraid of spending should plan "a campaign to spend some money" before retiring, Shelton said. Then review your holdings. If you still think your assets are adequate, he said, you can relax a little about spending what you've accumulated.
Roosild said people facing retirement often think "nothing is going to change again. The reality is things won't go the way you planned. The unexpected still happens in retirement," both for good and for ill.
"You trade your life energy to make money" before you retire, Ganas said. As a result, "money can acquire a lot of meaning on its own. We need to realize we are the ones who assign the meaning. It's totally subjective." Beyond the IRA
Retirement planning means more than money. Experts advise:
Discuss your global goals for retirement with your spouse first, then figure out the specifics.
Assets that pay out a known amount, like
Practice retirement by taking time off work and by spending some extra money.
Don't be surprised if things don't go according to plan.
(c)2013 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)
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