Since the onset of COVID-19, retirement has spiked, particularly among baby boomers. It would seem that some people retired simply because they were close enough in age that it made sense. But many other people have been surprised by retirement. Some took early retirement packages that were too enticing to pass up. But other mature individuals were involuntarily let go by their employer, driving them into an unexpected retirement. 

If this sounds like you or someone you care about, I’d like to offer some ideas to help. Now, more than ever, retirees need a solid long-term plan to realize their dreams. Here are seven steps I recommend recent retirees consider, ensuring they put themselves in the best long-term position. 

 

EMOTIONAL AND FINANCIAL IMPACTS

I’ve been witness to several people going through these types of changes. My observation is that the two biggest impacts are emotional and financial. In general, I recommend that people focus on the emotional impacts first. This puts you in the best position to make decisions on the financial side that you won’t regret. 

My colleague, David Peckenpaugh, recently wrote an article about the value of hard times. Unexpected retirement can certainly create hardship. But there are likely options available to you that you may not be ready to explore if you are still reeling from the emotional impact. David’s counsel is that you avoid making any big decisions for at least a year. Unfortunately, those dealing with unexpected retirement really don’t have that option. You’ll likely need to make certain moves—and very soon. 

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TWO STEPS FOR DEALING WITH THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT

I think there are two steps to take to alleviate the emotional impact of unexpected retirement. 

  1. Give yourself time to adjust.
  2. Anticipate good things to come.

Those who retired on their own schedule and volition, and those who took early retirement packages voluntarily, probably have a very different emotional outlook than those who were compelled to retire. Both types of retirees will have to adjust to their new normal. But those who were unexpectedly retired deal with an extra layer of emotions.

The big question I see people struggling with is “why did this happen?” Retirement should be a moment of triumph, a rite of passage from a rewarding career to the next stage of life. But those who were thrust into retirement probably feel no sense of triumph. In fact, it’s all too easy to practice self-blame for the outcome. People seem to wonder. Did I do enough? Am I no longer valuable? Can I no longer make an impact through my work? 

These are tough questions, and they require some soul searching to ponder them. This is why my advice is to give yourself time to adjust. I also recommend that you rely on your support networks. Many mature individuals have maintained personal and professional networks. The personal network— friends and family—will support you no matter the reason you retired.

But the professional network can really help you sort out what you’re feeling and even remind you of the great work you’ve done in the past. A big win from 20 years ago is yesterday’s news. But it’s also proof that you have done great work. Sometimes, we all need to be reminded of that. For newly retired people, especially those who think they might rejoin the workforce at some point, keeping professional relationships vital and active is important. 

It’s also important to anticipate good things ahead. Retirement can free you to do things you’ve always wanted to do. This is about turning a negative into a positive. What have you always wanted to do but never had time to do? You can view retirement as your exit from the workforce. Or you can view it as your entrance into the next stage of your life. I want to encourage you to think about all of the things you now have time to do. If you focus on these things and make a schedule for how you’ll do them, you just might get excited about what retirement means for you. 

 

FIVE STEPS FOR DEALING WITH THE FINANCIAL IMPACT

I suggest taking these five steps to alleviate the financial impact of unexpected retirement:

  1. Meet with your financial advisor right away.
  2. Expect to address changes in your longer-term financial plan and possibly your lifestyle.
  3. Make sure you have healthcare locked down.
  4. If you’ve been offered a retirement package, make sure you understand the details.
  5. Get clarity on your long-term projections.

First, it’s important to get your financial advisor involved as soon as possible. Hopefully, you’ve been able to build a trusted relationship with a financial advisor who deeply knows you and your situation. This is the time to lean on that relationship more than ever. If you don’t have a relationship with an advisor you trust, start one. 

Retirement plans are built on projections and assumptions that may no longer be valid for your situation. But more than anything, your advisor needs to know what you’re thinking and feeling so they can help you make the best decisions possible. This may require several meetings and some additional research before you arrive at any conclusions. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can have peace of mind about the next phase of your life.

Second, expect to address changes in your long-term financial plan. Retirement brings about changes for everyone, but those who retired involuntarily may have to make more adjustments than others, particularly to lifestyle. This does not automatically mean that you need to institute austerity measures. But it’s important to know where you stand and what you need to do. If you do need to make adjustments, it’s a good idea to begin preparing yourself for that now.

Third, lock down a strategy for healthcare and especially health insurance. Newly retired people likely relied on the health insurance provided by their employer. But with that ending, how will you pay for health insurance and out-of-pocket expenses? My advice is that you move quickly to ensure you have coverage. Know when your employer’s insurance runs out and make sure you have a new plan in place with adequate coverage. A major health event that is not covered by insurance could wipe out your financial reserves. Think of this as financial defense 101.

Fourth, make sure you understand the terms of your retirement package, if you’ve been offered one. Many corporations began to offer retirement packages in the early days of COVID. But not all packages include the same features or benefits, even within the same company. Some companies have tiered their early retirement offerings based on criteria like tenure, seniority and even certain departments. In other words, just because someone you know at your company received a certain offer, that doesn’t mean you’ll get the same. If you’re considering an early retirement package, I recommend that you review the details of the offering with your financial advisor. 

Fifth, I think it’s really important to get clarity on your long-term financial projections. Most people I speak with have four major goals they are considering as they enter retirement:

  1. They want to enjoy retirement and finally do things they didn’t have time to do before.
  2. They want their money to outlive them.
  3. They want to pass wealth to their heirs in the most tax-advantaged way possible.
  4. They want to make an impact on the broader world through some type of charitable organization or cause that they support.

With early retirement, it’s likely you’ll need to revisit these goals and update your long-term financial projections and plans. At Whitnell, we do this in a few different ways for clients, including Monte Carlo simulations. 

I do want to sound a note of caution here. My colleague Mia Erickson has written several good articles on this topic. One of her observations is that it’s easy to overspend in the first few years into retirement. Why? Because most people have time on their hands, have savings and are healthy enough to really get out into the world and enjoy themselves. Whether it be travel, leisure-time shopping or even giving money to heirs, the risk is that you’ll make financial decisions in the first five years of retirement that will hurt you later. A careful analysis of your long-term financial standing can help you make decisions now that you won’t regret down the road.  

 

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?

Retirement should be a moment of triumph and a rite of passage from working life to the next phase of life. Many mature people today are struggling to make this transition for a variety of reasons, including being suddenly thrust into early retirement. The question to ask yourself right now is—what’s next? If you’ve been a working professional for more than 25 years, you probably have a lot to look forward to and more options than you might realize. If you deal with the emotional impact of retirement first and then focus on the financial aspect, you just might find that there’s a lot more to be excited about than you realize. As always, if there is anything I can do to help, let’s talk. 

 

© 2020 Whitnell & Co.  The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only.