If your career has been your focus for most of your adult life, retirement may seem like an abstract concept – something that will happen eventually, but not something you need to think about right now. In the meantime, we work toward financial freedom because we know that once we retire, we’ll want to do something and have the money to do it, whether it’s traveling, buying a second home, or starting a new hobby.

“John” and “Mary” looked forward to retiring one day. They felt financially ready to take that next step. They made the decision to end their working careers and enter what they hoped would be retirement bliss.

For Mary, retiring meant she could help take care of her young grandchildren. She was eager to be a part of their lives and glad to support her children as a caregiver. A year into retirement, Mary was having the time of her life. She had a purpose, a way to occupy her time, and an opportunity to see her grandchildren grow and mature.

For John, however, the opposite was true. He felt antsy and unproductive. John didn’t really have any hobbies. He had tried golf with his other retired buddies but remained unfulfilled. A year into retirement, John had had enough: He was ready to go back to work. He was contemplating a part-time job or some other way to stay busy.

This example can provide an important lesson for advisors: While it’s crucial to understand a client’s potential for financial success in retirement, it’s equally important for that client to be ready emotionally. We believe new research by Savant Wealth Management and Absolute Engagement helps back me up on this critical point.

The Many Reasons Retirements Fail

Absolute Engagement surveyed 750 high-net-worth individuals in the spring of 2021 to learn how perceptions of retirement are changing. The research showed that when retirement doesn’t seem to be everything it was cracked up to be, some retirees wind up going back to work. In our study, 19 percent of those who retired decided to start working again. And it wasn’t about the money: 36 percent of these former retirees told us they were financially ready but not personally ready. Another 34 percent said they just couldn’t move on from working full time, while 28 percent said they just didn’t feel fulfilled.

The research also showed that women experienced more difficulty moving on from working full time, as well as filling their time in retirement. Men also tended to feel unfulfilled in retirement, with 28 percent saying they didn’t have a sense of purpose. Men were also more likely to say their spousal relationship suffered after they retired and that they were unable to afford the lifestyle they wanted.

Among those not yet retired, feeling fulfilled in retirement was a top concern, with 55 percent saying it’s a concern now or may become a concern later. Other concerns included being able to afford a desired lifestyle and personal readiness to retire.

How to Avoid a False-Start Retirement

Over my career as a financial advisor, I’ve learned the importance of helping clients understand not just their financial picture, but the entire picture of what their lives could be like in retirement. These three tips can help you get started:

  1. Envision your future. While you are still working, take the opportunity to really envision what you would like your future to be. If you’re married or have a significant other, ask that person to do the same. Think about where you want to be in 10, 15, or 20 years – where are you and what are you experiencing? Try to be as vivid as possible. Once you’ve completed this exercise, share your thoughts and discuss them with each other. You can refine your vision based on your discussion.
  2. Create a one-page personal plan. To achieve the vision you imagined, what things do you need to develop along the way? If you want to write a book, for example, what skills or research do you need to accomplish that task? Keep track of your goals – including personal and professional milestones – by creating a one-page personal plan. Your plan may highlight your goals to improve your physical well-being, your finances, or even your level of charitable giving. Start with your goals and work backward – what will you need to do in 10 years, five years, one year, or each quarter to accomplish them? Encourage your spouse or partner to create a plan too, and review them together.
  3. Remember that money isn’t everything. Money may help us achieve all that is important in our lives, but it can also be an important accelerant in improving other people’s lives and making an impact on the world. While it’s necessary to have a vision and develop plans to accomplish that vision, it can also be satisfying to use your resources, vision, plan, and financial well-being to impact the lives of others. After all, it isn’t about the money – it’s about what the money can do.

Once you’ve thought through your plan, be sure to share it with your financial advisor and discuss any gaps or potential changes in your investment strategy. Experienced advisors have seen their share of retirement successes and failures and can help align your financial plan to best meet your goals. At Savant, we’re on the journey with you and always have your best interests at heart. Let us know how we can help!

This is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult your financial advisor regarding your unique situation.

Savant Wealth Management (“Savant”) is an SEC registered investment adviser headquartered in Rockford, Illinois. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk.

Author Wayne B. Titus Financial Advisor / Managing Director

Wayne authored the book, "The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Financial Well-Being," and loves to educate others on financial, tax and investment topics by writing columns and through public speaking.

About Savant Wealth Management

Savant Wealth Management is a leading independent, nationally recognized, fee-only firm serving clients for over 30 years. As a trusted advisor, Savant Wealth Management offers investment management, financial planning, retirement plan and family office services to financially established individuals and institutions. Savant also offers corporate accounting, tax preparation, payroll and consulting through its affiliate, Savant Tax & Consulting.

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Savant Wealth Management (“Savant”) is an SEC registered investment adviser headquartered in Rockford, Illinois. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk. Therefore, it should not be assumed that future performance of any specific investment or investment strategy, including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended and/or undertaken by Savant, or any non-investment related services, will be profitable, equal any historical performance levels, be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. Please see our Important Disclosures.