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2: Size Up Your Situation

Assess Your Feelings, Motivations and Values

Statistics on women's poverty in retirement.

Source: Shortchanged in Retirement and Pensionomics 2016, both studies from the National Institute on Retirement Security.

Being financially prepared for retirement is a general focus for many people, but you also need to check in with your feelings, motivations and long-held values about your retirement.

heart and brain on a scale

How Do You Feel About Retirement?

How will you feel when you retire? No one can tell you how to feel about your retirement because it’s unique to every person. You may be looking forward to retirement, or it might frighten you to think about the finances, what to do with your time or even how people will react to you as a retiree. Like any transition in life, retiring can bring about various emotions.

Identify Your Feelings

Look at the list below and check all that could apply to your feelings about retirement.

I'm a burden to others.

It’s paradise every day!

Finally, I’ve fulfilled my duty.

I’ve lost my identity.

I’m so relieved.

Peaceful times await me.

I’m optimistic about the changes.

Adventure awaits!

I'm anxious about what to do.

It's sad not having a job.

I'm excited to be finished!

I'm afraid I'll be lonely.

I feel guilty for not earning my keep.

I'm confused.

Not surprisingly, many retirees move through a variety of reactions about being retired. It’s OK if you checked several of these boxes, many with conflicting statements. After all, retirement is a major life transition.

What are Your Motivations for Retirement?

You’ve been motivated to get good grades, you’ve educated yourself to get a good job, and you work hard to earn money and live the life you want. But even these seemingly positive motivations for your actions can have downsides. For example, getting good grades can mean that you don’t get enough rest from all the studying. Educating yourself for a good job may not pan out if your chosen career isn’t satisfying. Finally, working hard for a particular lifestyle means you can miss some of the simple pleasures in life.

Do any of these motivations sound familiar?

I’m tired of working or unhappy with the work I do.
Certainly quitting work that is too demanding or not satisfying can determine your retirement age. But do you envision spending 24/7 with your spouse or significant other? Do you have plans for the extra time? What is the likelihood of your future self enjoying those activities? And, taking your pension or Social Security benefits at an earlier age can have long-term consequences to your financial health.

My company is forcing me into retirement.
Some companies do “force” retirement because of workforce reductions, relocations or other cutbacks (however, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects American workers over 40 from discrimination). Have you been saving all along just in case this happens to you? Do you need to take Social Security before you planned?

Health concerns (for me or others) make it difficult for me to continue working.
In today’s work environment, caring for yourself or a loved one can make it difficult to continue working. Women, in particular, often will take on caregiving roles, making it difficult to continue contributing to company retirement plans and thwarting contributions to Social Security.

I want to enjoy my life with my hobbies, travel and family.
At 62, you can start to draw Social Security benefits (though reduced). Do you feel like you have enough to sustain yourself in retirement? Travel and hobbies can get expensive. Will you need to take a part-time job to supplement your savings? What will take the place of your work identity?

Thinking about money, travel and relaxing in retirement

Think about Your Motivators

So, what motivates you to retire? Are you prepared for it? What are some of the downsides if you do retire?

Write down your motivations for retiring and think about how your life will look in the future. Can you think of any negatives? Write those down too – you’ll need a plan to address them.

Your Values Count!

When you make retirement plans your financial needs and values will influence your decisions for the retirement you envision. Consider these statements for example, containing value and financial sentiments.

retirement value statements

Reflect on Your Values

Now think about your values. You can use the LifeValues Quiz to determine what will be your driving force(s) for making retirement decisions. How do your values influence the kind of retirement you see in the future? Will they impact how long you work or what activities you will spend money and time on?

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