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Non-Financial Aspects of Retirement

Author Greg Davis

When planning for your retirement, there are a variety of things to consider in addition to how much you might be saving. Nonfinancial factors will play a role, as will changes in your personal goals and priorities after retirement. 

For instance, studies show that while 74% of pre-retirees make financial plans for retirement, only 35% prepare emotionally. 

Specifically, many workers have difficulty leaving their jobs, perhaps because their jobs are often a defining part of who they are. This is not surprising considering many individuals spend 40 or more years building their careers (as I did). 

By looking beyond the separation anxiety, one may be able to identify new opportunities, including turning hobbies into a part-time business or having greater time to pursue other interests that working full time does not allow.

Visualizing the future helps you create a realistic plan for your retirement.  By articulating your vision, you can gain clarity about your retirement as well as what may be involved in achieving your goals. 

Some of the things to consider include:

1. Who will play a role in your retirement? Think about the people you spend the most time with today and how that may change when you retire. We moved from Illinois to Pennsylvania in 2021 to be closer to friends and family.

2. What do you want to do with your free time? Work has become a larger part of people’s retirement lifestyle, both for financial reasons and for the nonfinancial benefits people receive from work, including social engagement.

3. When is the right time for you to retire? Although it can be difficult to anticipate the right time to retire or what unexpected situations may arise, it is helpful to set a goal of when you would like to retire.

4. Where will you live in retirement? As you develop your vision, consider whether you want to stay in your home, downsize, and/or relocate. We decided over 10 years ago that moving from a high maintenance home to a condominium made the most sense for us.

5. Why are you getting out of bed each day in retirement? You may thrive in retirement or find your sense of purpose challenged without your work. 

 

For those experiencing mixed feelings, it is helpful to acknowledge them, both to yourself and a partner or trusted friend. 

Remind yourself why you chose to retire, and remember all you accomplished to reach this point. 

Then, it is time to turn your attention to the things you always wanted to do. For me, this led to regular exercise, spending more time with family and friends, learning a new sport, and writing a book.

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I appreciate spending more time with my wife and discovering new offerings in Philadelphia. We love walking to many city sites, such as the excellent restaurant scene, sporting events on Broad Street, and concerts at the beautiful Kimmel Center, which is only one block from our condominium. We also have been able to enjoy the outdoors by bicycling and picking up our new retirement sport of pickleball, a racket or paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. With the onset of rising gas prices during 2022, we tried to stay young by walking more often and joining various groups such as city food tours.

It is important to note that retirement is not only about finances. There are other concepts we need to consider about aging. I listened to a TEDx Talk by Isabel Allende, a novelist who writes stories of passion, titled “How to Live Passionately—No Matter Your Age”. 

Allende is an expert on aging at seventy-one years old, and her husband is seventy-six. Her parents were well into their late nineties and even her dog, Olivia, at sixteen. I learned from her TEDx Talk, “Society decides when we are old, usually around age sixty-five, when we receive Medicare. Many of us feel younger than our real age because the spirit never ages. Aging is about attitude and health.” This made me think of my aging process, particularly since I had recently entered the retirement phase of life in 2021.

Isabel Allende’s TEDx Talk states, “Aging is about attitude and health.” Regarding attitude, retirement is going well for me as I accepted a board of director position on the Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R) Employee Support Fund (ESF). 

This fund provides immediate short-term financial assistance to eligible team members experiencing financial hardship. While I love being part of this ESF committee that has helped numerous employees since its 2003 inception, it also allows me the opportunity to reconnect with some of my favorite coworkers from my twenty-three years at Hershey.

In her current phase of retirement, my wife assists with local social service agencies in Philadelphia, like Broad Street Ministries, which offers “radical hospitality” to improve the quality of life to our Philadelphia neighbors in need. She is also fully involved with a special rowing club on the infamous Schuylkill River. 

Per their website, Hope Afloat USA is a “rowing program developed specifically for breast cancer survivors helping each other reclaim healthy, joyful lives through the ancient sport of dragon boat racing.” This is critical to the cancer recovery process as this program encourages them to be active to boost energy levels that may have dropped during treatment through a healthy and exhilarating sport. I am excited to see my wife participate in this amazing program as it allows her to connect with other women going through similar life experiences. As a bonus, the rowing and coordinated weight-lifting exercise program are excellent for maintaining her fitness levels.

Since I have shared some of our retirement experiences, I thought it would be interesting to hear from several other people on how they are dealing with our central theme for this article: aging and the non-financial aspects of retirement. 

Many of our POF readers may be thinking of serving on the boards of various companies or agencies, which I have found to be extremely rewarding.

In an interview with Bill Simpson (retired president and CEO of HE&R), he mentioned, “As I neared my retirement date, I started working hard to get some board of director jobs. Being involved with the board at the Woodstock Inn helps me keep active in the hospitality industry.” I agree with Bill that staying involved does keep you active in any industry, which is important when you are retired. Bill also added some great advice for approaching the retirement phase of our lives: “One of the things we’ve talked about is trying to break the next ten years or so into five-year increments. And actually, that was his wife’s idea.” It makes a lot of sense to break down retirement into more manageable chunks of time.

I also interviewed Tim Koller, a retired financial manager with the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM designation, who was a RBC financial advisory team member for my wife and me. He shared his view on what he has enjoyed the most in his retirement over the past four years: “I have never been a person to exercise as I didn’t start cycling until age fifty-five. I have grown to like spinning and the camaraderie I built with our spin class.” For Tim and me, having the time in retirement to devote to regular exercise is key to improved aging.

In an interesting reveal, what surprised Tim the most about his retirement was when he stated, “We are spending at least what we did prior to retirement and then a little more.” 

While Tim and I share strong financial backgrounds, we are spending more in our sixties in retirement than before retirement. Tim said, “This is typical for many couples during the first five to ten years of retirement.” 

A timely article on retiree spending states that in your early retirement years, you may spend as much or even more than you did while you worked, depending on your lifestyle. The major reason given is higher costs due to travel, inflation, and lifestyle changes, such as dining out more often. 

Per my budget analysis, I would say we are spending about 5 percent more than anticipated. As we navigate our new city, we are eating out more often, enjoying lots of nearby shows and concerts, and dealing with higher inflation over the past several years of post-pandemic impact. 

In delving into the nonfinancial aspects of retirement in this article, we learned that getting old does not have to be a sad time. It can be an exhilarating time when we get to do the things we have always dreamed of doing. My wife and I have a cheerful outlook toward aging as retirement has provided us the chance to do things we have dreamed about, such as writing a book, taking a ten-day trip through Canada, or enjoying a new hobby like rowing on a peaceful river on a dragon boat. For others, it may simply mean spending more time with family, volunteering, exercising, taking on civic duties, or just simply sitting at a coffee shop and enjoying a delightful book (I would have a strong bias to my book, Checkmate!). I highly suggest by expanding our boundaries as we age and learning new activities, we will only enhance our retirement years and our overall happiness.

For example, chess was a game I played heavily in my high school days when I had a fair amount of free time. Since I am now retired, I have decided to pick up this fascinating game again. I started a chess club in my condominium building in 2023. I have started to attend several live chess tournaments in 2024 after a 45-year hiatus. While I may not be able to say it often, the joy of saying checkmate at the end of a chess match is an exhilarating aspect of this intriguing game. As a bonus, research suggests that people who routinely engage in playing games such as chess and crosswords are 11% less likely to develop dementia. 

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Taking steps now to consider your vision of the future and the financial and nonfinancial components of the years ahead can help you reduce stress and gain peace of mind. It is up to each of us to build an enjoyable life, regardless of whether we are working or retired. It may mean volunteering, part-time work, hobbies, and many other self-selected activities. It is important to understand and plan for a transition from full-time employment. Retirement is a huge change, and many retirees will miss the structure that a job provides. Staying active can provide a bridge from full-time work to an enjoyable, leisure-filled life. Retirement means different things to different people. 

 

Have you considered what retirement means to you?

Share some of your non-financial aspects of retirement in the comments below.



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