Why aren’t you retired? This is the question that one of my client’s long-time friends posed to him recently.
This is a reasonable query given my client’s financial situation and age, i.e., mid-60s. Though not his true name, I will refer to him as “Lou.”
I have had the pleasure of working with Lou as his financial advisor for many years. In addition to preparing Lou’s income tax returns, I have created, implemented, and manage a comprehensive retirement income plan for him.
Delayed Retirement Becoming More Common
Although many people still retire at the traditional age of 65, more are choosing to delay retirement. Average retirement ages have risen among women and men since the early 1990s according to the Brookings Institution Later Retirement, Inequality in Old Age, and the Growing Gap in Longevity Between Rich and Poor research.
Older males’ participation in the work force has increased by nearly one-third, going from a low of 26 percent in 1995 to 35 percent in 2014. Older women have experienced a similar increase, from 15 percent in 1995 to 25 percent in 2014. In addition, many older workers have moved from part-time to full-time status according to the study.
Financial Incentives for Working Longer
There are various financial incentives for working longer. In addition to continuing to receive a paycheck, ongoing employment enables further 401(k) and other savings, continuation of employee benefits, and an opportunity to increase monthly Social Security and income annuity benefits by delaying one’s start date.
Retirement and nonretirement distributions can also be delayed, resulting in additional portfolio growth opportunities. This can be important in the event that you retire during a prolonged stock market downturn.
Whether your financial resources are inadequate for meeting your retirement needs or you’re in Lou’s situation, working longer can provide you with a greater financial buffer in the event that you live a long life.
Nonfinancial Factors at Play
Given the fact that inadequate financial resources aren’t an issue, what’s holding Lou back from pulling the retirement trigger? I believe that there are three important interrelated nonfinancial factors at play for Lou and many individuals that haven’t received a lot of attention as they pertain to retirement planning: routine, camaraderie, and discipline.
Employment provides us with a daily routine. The importance of having structure in our life cannot be underestimated. In the working world, it gives us a set of tasks that we must perform each and every day of the working week.
Routine instills good habits in our life and helps us break bad ones. It enables us to prioritize our day, get the most important tasks done, and procrastinate less. Following a routine builds self confidence and helps reduce stress.
If you were ever in the military or on a professional sports team, you understand how difficult it is to duplicate the strong bonds, sense of purpose, and teamwork you experienced. Whether you work in a large organization or you’re working by yourself serving clients, camaraderie provides you with a sense of well being.
In a Gallup poll cited in Christine Riordan’s Harvard Business Review article, We All Need Friends at Work, it was found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work. Per Ms. Riordan, friends at work form a strong social support network for each other, both personally and professionally.
While routine and camaraderie are natural benefits of interacting with others at work, this isn’t the case when it comes to discipline. Discipline is a self-imposed state of mind that’s a way of life. It applies to one’s personal and work life. Discipline is responsible for many people’s success. It’s difficult to achieve success without it.
Jocko Willink wrote about this subject in his highly-regarded book, Discipline Equals Freedom. He describes the mental and physical disciplines that he imposed upon himself to become commander of the most highly decorated special operations SEAL team unit in Iraq which he continues to practice every day.
Is Routine, Camaraderie, and Discipline Part of Your Retirement Plan?
Making a successful transition from the workplace to retirement requires a heavy dose of nonfinancial planning. You can have the best financial plan; however, if you haven’t prepared for how you will replace your daily routine and camaraderie at work, it will be difficult for you to make the adjustment. Discipline will make the process easier and will increase your chances for success.
It’s natural to fall into the trap of linking your inherent value as a person, or self-worth, to your work identity. When planning your retirement, you need to do a lot of soul searching to figure out who you really are, what you want to accomplish in your remaining days, and what you want your legacy to be.
Once you do this, it will be easier to build a daily routine, camaraderie, and discipline tied to your newly or rediscovered identity. This will enable you to retire with confidence, excitement, a sense of purpose, and a new lease on life.