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Four big surprises in retirement:

1. How much you miss working

2. How much of a benefit you get from working in retirement

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3. How much money you're spending

4. How much of a burden it can be to manage your banking and investments

This list comes from John Klaas, a Halifax-based retired registered financial planner (RFP) who for 27 years worked at MD Management, which provides financial advice for people in the medical profession. Mr. Klaas is part of the Canadian Retirement Mentoring Group, an informal think tank of academics and others who are trying to improve the retirement experience by mentoring individuals and their advisers.

The group puts out a daily bulletin containing links to interesting retirement-related articles . No too long ago, they posted an article that listed two aspects of retirement you won't be surprised about – how much better your Sunday evenings are, and how you won't need your alarm clock any more. What will surprise you? Especially for this column, Mr. Klaas came up with four themes based on his research and experience.

Surprise No. 1 – Missing work

Miss work – seriously? Isn't the marquee attraction of retirement not having to drag your bones to work every day? As it turns out, work gives us a number of things that aren't easily replaced, and we're not talking about money.

One is creative satisfaction – Mr. Klaas said that if you've developed a certain set of skills over a lifetime, you may find that you'll miss using them when you retire. He says you may also miss the social aspect of work. "It's the interaction that comes automatically when you walk through the door of the office. You have to replace that engagement."

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You may also miss work simply because it occupied big blocks of time that you find difficult to fill when retired. Mr. Klaas mentioned a British study that asked people what they planned to do with their time in retirement. Typically, the activities they listed accounted for only 20 per cent of the time they had available. Beware what Mr. Klaas calls "the restlessness that comes from too much unstructured time."

Surprise No. 2 – The benefits of working

Mr. Klaas said there are four archetypes of working retirees and they each highlight a benefit. One is the driver/achiever – "they're Type A people who maybe become a B plus, to quote somebody I read." A second type is the "caring contributor," which means people who have the skills to help others and are motivated to do it.

A third type is the "life balancer," which refers to people seeking social interaction. Finally, there's what Mr. Klaas calls the "earnest earner" who works because he or she needs the income.

Surprise No. 3 – Spending

Mr. Klaas said that retirement planning typically assumes a constant level of spending throughout retirement. But people often spend more in their 60s than they had thought, and then less than they imagined in their 70s. He estimates people will need 17 per cent less money in their 70s relative to their 60s.

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In your 80s, a lot depends on your health. Even with our public health care system, any out-of-pocket costs related to medical care and support for seniors with medical issues can add up. "Money-wise, it's likely that the last third of your retirement is the hardest to figure out," Mr. Klaas said.

Spending surprises may also result from two other factors – long lives and a need or desire to help children and grandchildren financially.

Surprise No. 4 – Managing your money

Dementia is the most dramatic threat to your ability to manage your finances. But Mr. Klaas's experience with retired physicians showed him there's a more subtle issue as well. "They would observe their own lives, what was happening inside themselves," he said. "Some of them would tell me, I'm just feeling less confident."

Mr. Klaas suggests retirees think through the process of designating a power of attorney to manage their day-to-day finances if unable to do it for themselves. He also warned that having a high-maintenance investment portfolio may be fun in your early retirement years and then become a burden.

Develop a plan for managing your finances that you can put into motion if you decide you're no longer doing a good job, Mr. Klaas suggested. "Too often, this comes too late – after some major misstep has occurred."

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