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The Side Effects of Retirement


We all laugh at the pharmaceutical commercials we see on television, right? They usually feature happy outgoing people spending cherished moments with family or friends.

If the commercial is on mute, they can actually be heartwarming and inspiring scenes… but if you read the small disclaimer rolling across the bottom of the screen or tune into the low monotone voice describing the possible side effects of that medication, you quickly get a contrasting story.

I recently saw a commercial where a charming couple was shown running out their front door in slow motion with excitement and smiles on their faces. They were running to greet their children and grand-children who were coming to visit on a beautiful summer evening. The woman warmly embraced her son, while her husband kneels-down with open arms to bear hug his grandchildren running toward him.

While this tender scene un-folded I carefully read the disclaimers and listened to the fast speaking monotone voice warning viewers about the medications side effects, which were severe dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

The scene then transitioned to the grandfather being tackled by his excited grandchildren, crashing down on the plush green grass of the front yard as the monotone voice warns that in some cases this medication may result in severe anxiety attacks, depression, and possible suicidal behavior. 

These pharmaceutical companies are being forced to give you all the information regarding their medicines, both the good and the bad, so you can make an informed decision.

Have you considered the possible side effects of retirement?

It seems like a silly question, but from our experience there can be side effects. They are usually different from the physical natured side effects of medications and fall more into the emotional realm of human behavior.

Because they are different to everyone, they are almost too numerous to list. However, they all stem from one human behavioral principle that every person in retirement or preparing for retirement should consider.

It’s the principle of habitual magnification. It sounds complicated, but it’s not.

It essentially states that overtime habits become more and more difficult to break.

Retirement is essentially a magnifying glass on your behaviors, your character, your flaws, your habits, and your relationships. Too often, I hear people say “When I retire, I’m really going to focus on “… … … …”.

We’ve all heard the cliché tag line that when you retire,

“You have to retire TO something.”

The problem with this cliché advice is it encourages people to postpone the things they should be doing now, and as a result are less likely to do them once they get to retirement.

To put it simply, humans are creatures of habits. Over time, we form our habits, but then over more time, our habits form us.

Understanding that part of human behavior teaches us that retirement might be easier if “You retire WITH something, rather than retiring TO something.”

In other words, clients need to create the lifestyle and habits before retirement so that when they get there, they are merely continuing them rather than trying to establish or build new ones.

It’s much easier to continue doing something (exercising, eating healthy, courting a spouse, etc.) than it is to suddenly start one. The older we get the more difficult habits are to break and the more difficult new ones are to create.

Remember retirement might offer more time and fewer distractions, but it also magnifies what people already are, not what they hope to be.

It’s easy to assume that retirement is this holy grail phase of life where you have enough money and time to do what you want… when want. You might even think, anyone who doesn’t thrive at this stage must be crazy or have something wrong with them.

Non-Financial vs Financial Considerations

Personal and financial well-being are not mutually exclusive. They are interwoven together and both need to be considered when creating, following, and tracking your financial plan.

As a financial planner, a primary goal is to make sure you don’t run out of money, but we think it’s equally important that you don’t run out of family, friends, good health, or time.

Therefore, we should take some time to talk about the non-financial factors associated with retirement and discuss how they are intertwined with all the financial considerations.

So what’s a better prescription for retirement? The answer is three-fold:

  1. Create better habits and better behavior before retirement, because retirement will only magnify them.
  2. Make sure that when creating your comprehensive financial plan, you consider your non-financial goals and dreams along-side your financial aspirations.
  3. Understand that retirement doesn’t necessarily mean ending your career, but could mean restructuring it for more flexibility, enjoyment, and satisfaction. (See our previous article Successfully Navigating The 3 Phases of Retirement.)

We aren’t saying retirement isn’t a great time to try new things and work on improving yourself, but don’t wait until retirement to try and create all new habits. If you do, you might experience the somewhat common side effects of “regret, disappointment, disenchantment, loneliness, boredom, or frustration.”

Complimentary Consultation

Finding the right financial adviser is one of the most important decisions you can make. Interview us and schedule a complimentary consultation for an in-depth review or a fresh new creation of your financial plan.

Call us at 385-CFP-4000, or visit our website for more information at www.divergentwealth.com.

Author | Jordan R. Collins, CFP®CRPC® Co-Founder | Managing Partner of Divergent Wealth

Divergent Wealth Advisors LLC is registered as an investment adviser with the SEC and only transacts business in state where it is property registered or is excluded or exempted from registration requirements. SEC registration in an of itself does not constitute an endorsement of the firm by the commission nor does it indicate that the adviser has attained an adequate level of skill or ability.

The information contained in this material is given for information purposes only, and no statements contained herein shall constitute tax, legal, or investment advice. The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the needs of an individual’s situation. You should seek advice on legal and tax questions from an independent attorney or tax advisor.

Individual clients should review with their adviser the terms, conditions, and risks involved with specific product or services. Neither the information provided, nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.