Every Retirement Choice has a Price

It’s a sad truth that every retirement choice has a price. The choice may have a financial price tag or an emotional price tag.

In planning for retirement, most people try to make choices that will reward a lifetime of hard work with a care-free, stress-free lifestyle. They recognize that all choices come with price tags although sometimes it’s a hidden price.

Some people down-size and move to smaller houses or apartments.   Some people choose retirement communities. Some people move across the country to live closer to children, grandchildren or friends.  Some move to live in a warmer climate. Many people stay in their family home choosing the familiar. Each of these choices has a both a financial and an emotional price tag.

Many make choices that they hope will endure throughout retirement without considering, health, medical care, mobility, socialization opportunities, transportation, hobbies or interests.  The needs associated with each item will change during retirement which may well cause a re-evaluation of earlier ‘ideal’ choices.

Too often people will plan the  ‘ideal’ retirement only to realize that there is no ideal retirement. Each choice has its own price.

Financial Choices

Financial calculations often drive the decision to retire.  How much money is required?  What lifestyle is wanted? Are there existing obligations such as mortgages or college expenses for children? Will I/we outlive our savings? Does the portfolio allow for predictability for the next five, ten,  twenty years and beyond? What income sources (pensions, investments, government payments) will fund the choices?

Despite our best efforts to predict the future, there will be surprises.  Death of a spouse, escalating health care costs, or market downturns affect finances.  Unexpected or hidden costs to such events will have a price that may change previous choices.

Emotional Choices

Choices about how to re-define oneself after retirement are as significant as financial decisions. Emotional choices also have a price tag. Some choices may increase happiness; other choices may lead to isolation, loneliness, and, perhaps, depression.

Regardless of what you did in your career before retirement, your identity will change after retirement.  You will no longer define yourself as an accountant, a teacher, a journalist, a social worker, an engineer, or a plumber. Without a career definition, you need to establish who you are in terms of how you recognize and value yourself.

Will you define yourself as ‘retired’? Often using the term, ‘retired’, is difficult as there is no societal status associated with it. Using the term ‘retired’ has a negative benchmark of withdrawing from something or going out of circulation. Many associate ‘retired’ with a price tag the involves loss of social status.

After retirement, life purpose will change along with identity. There is freedom from work commitments but choices to find meaning are required. Having a life purpose gives motivation and informs other decisions and choices.

Finding a new purpose in life after retirement  often takes time and may involve several false starts.  What seemed an ideal choice before retirement may need re-evaluation.

Relationships change after retirement. Spousal relationships usually need re-negotiation when togetherness becomes 24/7.  Home life can become challenging if both spouses retire at the same time, if retirement coincides with an ’empty nest’, or if the marriage was already in difficulty.

Social relationships also change with retirement.  The network of colleagues and work friends shifts or ends completely. Until new friendships, based on retirement interests, begin, the price tag involves feelings of loss and, even, loneliness.

Too often we are seduced into the societal viewpoint that sees retirement as a destination instead of a long and meandering journey that can last for 30 or more years.

During these years, much will happen in terms of finances, social change and personal change.

By recognizing that each choice has a price tag, everyone can plan realistically for this wonderful stage of life that comes with no instruction book.

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