What We Lose
Jonathan Clements | HumbleDollar Aug 26, 2023
WHEN WE RETIRE, we win back control over our daily life. Gone is the boss, the expectation that we’ll be at work at a certain hour, the worry about what the next office email will bring. We have a degree of freedom that, in many cases, we last knew when we were students contemplating a long summer vacation.
But even as we gain that freedom, there’s also much that we lose. If we’re to be happy retirees, we need to think hard about how we’ll cope with these losses. For some, what’s lost won’t seem all that bad. But for me—someone for whom work has been so central to my life—the seven losses below loom large.
1. Income. This is the most obvious loss, we all know it’s coming—and yet many folks are left anxious by the disappearance of their paycheck, even if they have ample savings. Moreover, with that paycheck gone, not only do we lose the ability to save, but also our financial life goes into reverse, with savings coming out of our nest egg instead of going in.
Given that, it’s hardly surprising that studies suggest retirees tend to be happier when they have ample predictable income, such as from a pension. Don’t have a pension? To ease the anxiety of retirement, consider delaying Social Security to get a larger monthly check and perhaps also purchasing immediate fixed annuities. I plan to do both.
2. Identity. When we meet folks for the first time, one of the questions is almost always, “So, what do you do?” Instead of “engineer” or “lawyer,” you’ll be saying, “I’m retired.”
How does that answer sit with you? For some, it’ll be just fine. But others will hunger for an answer that lets them reclaim the pride they felt when they described their old profession. Even now, I tell people, “I used to work for The Wall Street Journal,” resting on those old laurels, even though my last Journal byline was more than eight years ago.
3. Purpose. Our new identity will be tied to the meaningful things we choose to do with our retirement years. It might be volunteering, helping family or a “hobby.” I put hobby in quotation marks because the word can suggest something that’s little more than a way to while away the hours.
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