One of the perks of being a financial adviser is talking to clients after they've retired and sharing in their happiness.
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It's a pleasure to witness the transformation of so many retirees as they recover from the stress of working, commuting and always rushing. It's also a privilege to have helped them craft the plan that helped them reach their lifestyle goals.
That's especially true when it's clear the person was eager to retire, and would benefit from doing so, but didn't think it was feasible. For those folks, a comprehensive retirement plan is like a permission slip to exit the rat race and enjoy life.
I always hope people will make the decision to start their retirement journey as they feel ready, without putting it off unnecessarily. From what I've seen with my own clients, retirement comes with several benefits for your wellness and your happiness.
It's an opportunity to improve your health
I recently ran into a client who retired in his late 50s, and the change in his appearance from the last time I'd seen him was startling. The stress in his eyes was gone; he was relaxed and couldn't stop smiling. This was a guy who wanted a way out of the daily grind for himself and his wife. They were shocked when they realized -- thanks to a written income plan based on the couple's goals -- that they could retire.
Well, sort of retire. He wanted a job working by the beach, and he's now a food runner assisting the waitstaff at an exclusive oceanside restaurant. It provides some income to supplement what he has from his savings, and he loves it. He also plays softball every week, keeping him fit and happy.
Transitioning to retirement with a part-time or less taxing job is often a healthy step. For instance, I have another client who took a 45% pay cut to relocate to Oregon for a less-stressful position than his former government job. When we met to review the retirement plan we had built, I asked him how he was doing.
"Look at me," he said. "I've lost 40 pounds, and I'm off my cholesterol, blood pressure and anti-depression meds. I golf every week. I see my grandkids, who live nearby. Let me tell you, the extra money I made before just wasn't worth it. Even with the pay cut, I'll still be able to stop working soon."
Of course, it isn't just about dumping the anxiety. My retired clients tell me they get more sleep and exercise and have more time to focus on cooking good food -- sometimes even growing it themselves (they used to call it a garden).
It's a chance to spend more time with family
Unfortunately, working and commuting so many hours every week can lead to a pretty self-centered life. Depending on your career, it can be hard to stop thinking about what you need to get done even when you're at home. There's always an email or text to answer or a project to prepare or finish.
Many clients have told me about rekindling the relationship with their spouse in retirement or building better bonds with family members. They say retiring provides more opportunities to be tender. It makes sense, doesn't it? When your head isn't buzzing with small details (Does my car need gas? What time was that meeting tomorrow? Is everything prepared for it?) you can focus on the person in front of you.
One friend and client reconnected with his sister, and they now travel the world together. Another client is spending quality time with his twin sons in ways he never imagined would be possible when he was working.
Retiring at 61 or 62 instead of 67 or 70 may not seem like that big of a difference, but those who wish to travel or hang out with their kids or grandkids often tell me how thrilled they are to do it while they still feel young and are able to get around easily. Even if these clients aren't old enough to collect their Social Security benefits -- or if they want to delay filing to continue growing their benefits -- we often can find a way to build a plan with what they have in savings and other income sources, allowing them to do the things they truly want.
You can give something back
Retirees often remark on how much they enjoy volunteer work -- and not just because it gives them something to do. They say they feel blessed to have had people in their lives who helped them in the past. Though they didn't have time or energy to get involved with a service organization when they were working, it's something they now can embrace.
One of my clients adopted a girl with special challenges who is thriving thanks to the attention from her new full-time mom. Others serve as mentors for young people, deliver meals to shut-ins or help their neighbors with chores, giving them a sense of purpose and renewed vigor. And remember: Charities aren't just looking for checks. Many are seeking help from volunteers who have special skills and experiences to offer. One example is the non-profit organization SCORE, made up of retired professionals who give free advice and wise counsel to business owners and entrepreneurs alike. I have been a recipient of their services, and I can attest that these are some sharp-minded, helpful retirees.
There's time for self-reflection
People often don't realize that their quality of life wasn't what they thought until they retire. Bills may have been getting paid, but they were busy and not completely fulfilled. Their minds were occupied with worry of deadlines and tasks at hand. Retirement allows time to ponder who and what is really important, what they're truly proud of and, maybe, what needs to change. For some, retirement is a reminder that they aren't going to live indefinitely, and that inspires them to embrace the years ahead.
I admit, I'm looking forward to semi-retirement; to devoting more time to my eldest son's special needs, pursuing my passion for cooking, learning from others and to giving something back.
If that's how you feel, and you're holding back because you lack confidence in your retirement income plan, perhaps it's time to talk to a financial professional about what you still need to do or how you can use what you already have to make things work. Believe me, there's a retirement professional out there who will be thrilled to put together a plan that gets you to your goals.
The appearances in Kiplinger were obtained through a PR program. The columnist received assistance from a public relations firm in preparing this piece for submission to Kiplinger.com. Kiplinger was not compensated in any way.
Kim Franke-Folstad contributed to this article.
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