Planning for Retirement
Three critical decisions about your retirement planning is not all numbers. There is a huge emotional component to it, reflecting the fact that retiring involves one of life’s most profound periods of change. No one really knows in advance how he or she will weather the process. That is why some people enter a period of prolonged depression, convinced that once a career ends, useful living stops, too.
For others, the transition is so easy that anyone observing them might think such individuals were born to retire. At any rate, three crucial decisions that many pre-retirees must make vividly display the mix of financial and emotional elements. They are:
- Knowing when you should retire.
- Sizing up an early-out offer from your employer.
- Deciding between taking a lump-sum pension and an annuity.
Recent studies indicate that about 25% of retirees are unhappy, primarily because they had not been ready to retire. For some, the decision had not been theirs to make. But in general, at the end of a long career most people think they are headed for freedom and do not stop to consider whether the free time they’ll have will lie heavy on them or be the prolonged vacation they envision.
Retirement planners say that six months or so after quitting work, reality sets in. To make sure that retirement is a welcome reality, weigh carefully the decision to call it quits. Look for the two prime signals that you are ready to retire: (1) You find it harder and harder to keep your mind on your work; and (2) You view retirement not as a passive vacation, but as an active adventure.
Be honest with yourself and admit just how rigid you might be in your life as it is at present. The more averse you are to change, the more you will have to work on making the transition bearable. If your employer provides retirement planning seminars, take advantage of them. They are apt to address emotional as well as financial issues. If such seminars are not available, seek them elsewhere, perhaps through community groups.