The transition from working life to retirement is something that today’s baby boomers often approach in stages, starting with a reduced workload sometime in their late fifties or early sixties and tapering off to less or no paid work a decade or so later.
But even with a staged approach, the transition to retirement can be unsatisfying unless there is a plan for life after work.
Until relatively recently, leaving work was often seen as a withdrawal from life, says Nuala Woodham, a positive aging coach in Vancouver. That view seems to be shifting with baby boomers who are in or are approaching retirement, but most pre-retirees still don’t have a lot of positive role models. “It can be unsettling and uncomfortable to make the transition without support or education,” she says.
In her coaching practice, Ms. Woodham encourages clients nearing retirement to devote time to exploring questions such as: What do I love to do? What are my strengths and talents? What have I put on hold in my life? What energizes me? “This can be challenging, because often they haven’t had the luxury of exploring these kinds of questions before,” she explains.
It is common for individuals reaching retirement to admit to having no idea what they want their new life to look like, she says. “A man in one of our workshops said he’d retired twice and found it so uncomfortable that he’d gone back to work both times.”
Retirement workshops or coaching can help people in midlife to re-evaluate their passions and purpose, and then to use that awareness to design the next stage of their life, she advises.
Financial concerns can also keep the newly retired from truly enjoying their new life, says National Bank financial planner Claude Deslauriers. “Often, people are afraid that they do not have enough resources to last them through retirement, and as a result, they limit their activities.”
Conversely, he says, spending too much in the early years of retirement can lead to financial insecurity later on.
The solution to both problems is working with a financial planner to create a comprehensive retirement plan, he advises. “We look at each area of the clients’ situation, including their assets and the risks they may be facing.”
Financial projections, based on realistic assumptions, help individuals and families see how investment return fluctuations, tax savings, inflation and interest returns might affect their income over time, he explains. “Then we put a realistic action plan in place, and update it regularly to ensure it is on track and make adjustments if necessary.”
Without these projections, updates and adjustments, it is extremely challenging to plan for what may be three decades or more of retirement, says Mr. Deslauriers. “It’s relatively easy to see what will happen in the first two or three years – but over 15 or 20 years, it is very difficult to evaluate whether resources will be sufficient.”
The financial planning process reassures retirees looking toward the future that their resources will last, which frees them to enjoy life in the present, he says. “It reduces the level of anxiety, which is a very important factor.”
With questions about financial security answered, the first year of retirement can be a true celebration of the next stage of life. “It’s a time to give ourselves permission to take life less seriously, to relax and have fun,” says Ms. Woodham. “That may mean giving back to the community as volunteers – or even creating our masterpiece at last.”