Don’t wait until you retire to start thinking about it


I had a very detailed retirement plan, and I feel like I’ve met every aspect of it: a lot of golf, a lot of carbs, a lot of fried food, and some booze, occasionally – I’ve been completely committed… The results have shown. – Andy Roddick

I can’t believe we are already in 2024. It just seems that time goes by faster and faster as I age. For me this time of the year puts age front and center. I have two children who have birthdays around this time. I have a wife who will be celebrating her 29th birthday, once again, next week. And I have a father, who should be well, who will be celebrating his 94th in a few days. Throw into the mix that virtually every meeting that I have had over the last nine months is somehow related to retirement or estate planning, and it’s becoming clear we are all getting older.

As we age, we need to start thinking about our retirement. For many, retirement is the culmination of decades of hard work, and a new beginning of a life of leisure. Though as a financial adviser my main job is to help individuals fund their retirement, I have found that more and more the job entails getting them to start planning and thinking about how they want to spend their time when they no longer need to punch a clock. You’d better think long and hard before you retire, on how you plan to fill up 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for what could easily be 20-30 years

Love your surroundings 

Fun in the sun

My youngest daughter has a show that she loves watching. It’s called “A Place in the Sun,” where retired couples go house shopping for retirement homes in warm climates near the sea. Years ago, when she was seven, she wasn’t feeling well, and it was my turn to stay up with her. At around 3 a.m. this show was on TV. There was a retired couple from somewhere in the UK looking to buy a vacation property in Malaga. They were going on and on about how they just want to relax in the sun for their retirement.

My blood pressure started to rise, and I told my then seven-year-old that I bet they go stir crazy after about two-three months and that their dream of retiring in the sun will turn out to be somewhat of a nightmare. She looked at me and was clearly wondering why I was getting so upset and talking to myself out loud, because it was clear she had no idea of what I was talking about!

Lawrence Robinson and Melinda Smith, M.A. of write, “Many of us spend years picturing our ideal retirement – whether it’s traveling the world, spending more time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies such as painting, gardening, cooking, playing golf, or fishing, or simply enjoying the freedom to relax and take it easy for a change. But while we tend to give lots of thought to planning for the financial aspects of retirement, we often overlook the psychological impact of retiring from work.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE’S ‘Norwegian Epic’ ship. (credit: Courtesy)

Initially, escaping the daily grind and a long commute, workplace politics, or a difficult boss, for example, can seem like a great relief. However, many new retirees find that after a few months the novelty of being on “permanent vacation” starts to wear off. You may miss the sense of identity, meaning, and purpose that came with your job, the structure it gave your days, or the social aspect of having co-workers.”

Learn how to find meaning

Think. Do yourself a favor and start thinking about how you plan on retiring a few years before you stop working. From experience, those individuals who are thoughtful about retirement have much more enjoyment and fulfillment than those who try and wing it. Outside of travel, the most common activities that I hear as a plan is to spend more time with grandchildren and to volunteer.

For those of you who have worked your whole life and haven’t thought about how to spend your retirement years, look out.  By far and away the most intriguing answers that I get about retirement plans are given by those who never thought about how they will spend their time post-career. They tell me that they are bouncing off the walls! They were so used to having a set schedule while they were working, now that they have so much free time, they just don’t know what to do with themselves. I know that personally, while not a workaholic, when I take a day off, I go absolutely stir crazy. For those of you like me who struggle to fill just one vacation day, multiply that feeling by 7,000! That’s about 20 years of what your retirement is going to be like. Yikes!

Speak to other retirees to understand how they made the transition from working to this new chapter in their life.  Those who succeed in this transition look at retirement not as the beginning of the end, but rather as a new chapter in their life. This attitudinal approach is crucial in creating the optimism which helps give meaning and purpose to this stage of life.

The information contained in this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. or its affiliates.

Aaron Katsman is the author of Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing.; [email protected].