Finding peace of mind when planning for retirement
Why do people get anxious about planning for retirement? The anxiety comes from different places—it can be the complexity of the planning process, the uncertainty of the outcomes, or the different parts that have to come together in order to make a cohesive plan work.
Then there’s the fear of making a mistake. In our experience in working with clients, this is the most common cause of anxiety. There are no do-overs when it comes to retirement planning. That fact can often place significant pressure on individuals and raise their anxiety about the entire process.
It’s true that errors made in a retirement plan can be costly—we are talking about money, after all. But there are also costs in terms of time—depending on how close retirement is, there may not be enough time to make up any lost ground.
No financial planner or investment advisor can guarantee an error-free retirement plan. Mistakes can and do happen. But there is much that we as financial planners and you as an individual can do to minimize the impact of mistakes and find peace of mind when you’re planning for retirement.
Here are a few of our suggestions:
It’s not uncommon for individuals to have an assortment of retirement accounts, including 401(k)s and IRAs, along with other investments, banking relationships, insurance policies and more. While people are working, saving and building wealth during their careers, it’s easy to collect different accounts that often have overlapping objectives. Moreover, these folks are often too busy to keep all of these different accounts organized.
This disorganization can lead to feelings of anxiety, especially as retirement nears. You may look at your financial plan and see only a jumble of gears, each moving at a different pace. You want to synchronize these parts so they work together and run smoothly throughout your journey in retirement.
If you feel you’re disorganized when it comes to all of your retirement and investment accounts, know that you’re not alone. This is one of the first concerns we usually address when we welcome new clients to our firm. Sometimes, just the act of opening an envelope that arrived in the mail from a retirement plan provider can reveal enough information to reassure a client about their financial future.
In helping clients get their finances organized, we consolidate their information and identify specific purposes for each account. Quite often, we can show clients they already have sufficient resources for a specific goal, or at least are on a good path toward achieving that goal. A small insight like this can be a good first step toward building confidence in a financial plan and fostering peace of mind.
Check in often.
At a minimum, we recommend an annual retirement plan check-up. Your doctor recommends annual physicals to help you maintain health and well-being and adjust your lifestyle if necessary. Doing the same with your retirement plan can have a similar effect on your financial well-being.
As you get older and the idea of retiring becomes more real, you may find yourself thinking more about your retirement plan. You may wonder if your financial well-being is healthy enough for a long retirement. The more you look ahead and think about your finances, the more your anxiety can build.
When we work with clients who are closing in on retirement, we revisit their retirement plan more often than once per year and measure the progress they’ve made against the benchmarks we have set. Annual check-ins are usually not enough as retirement gets closer, so we increase the frequency of account reviews to help clients relieve some of the anxiety they may feel.
There’s always a risk of checking in too often—looking at your retirement plan too frequently can have the opposite effect of increasing anxiety, rather than relieving it. Everyone is different in terms of how anxious they may feel about their financial future. But most of the time, we find clients are on track for achieving their goals, the performance of their investments are within acceptable ranges for future success, and adjustments to their financial plan aren’t needed.
This isn’t the case with every client, of course. Sometimes we have to suggest changes in lifestyle, savings rates or spending habits if returns are too low or if expectations are too high. Regular check-ins give us the opportunity to make these kinds of adjustments when necessary. Waiting too long to make these critical changes can lead more pain and tougher choices down the road.
Be honest with your expectations.
One of the more difficult conversations we have with clients comes in setting expectations. Just asking the question “What do you want to do in retirement” can induce feelings of anxiety.
It’s not that many people have unrealistic goals or pie-in-the-sky expectations (although that does happen). Rather, we find the goals people set are often arbitrary—there is no true purpose or guiding belief behind their expectations. People set the same objectives for retirement because everyone else does.
When working with clients, we encourage them to think beyond numbers when setting expectations for retirement. More than financial security, what do they really want their retirement to look like? We ask them to think about the choices they have in front of them—what goals are most valuable; what do they feel can they can really live without.
One common thread that emerges from these client discussions is a desire for freedom to spend their time as they please. Many come to realize they value time more than money. So we help them create a plan for building and withdrawing retirement assets that maximizes the value of their time. Quite often, people discover they may not need as much money as they thought to make the most of their time. This discovery can be as liberating as it is stress relieving.
A partner in peace of mind.
Above all else, working with a skilled financial advisor is key to finding peace of mind when planning for retirement. An advisor can bring knowledge and experience to help you find solutions to specific financial challenges you face. Just having someone else solve an intractable problem on your behalf can relieve much of the stress that comes with the complexity of retirement planning.
There’s also the benefit of being able to spread the stress of retirement planning around to another person. It can be liberating to have a third-party advisor lift some of the burden off of your shoulders. Finding another person who understands the fears and anxieties you face can give you the freedom to take the first steps in planning for your future.
When Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he understood that fear holds people back from seeking success and improving their lives. The fear of making financial mistakes can keep you from planning ahead for your future. That’s when a skilled financial advisor can provide qualified guidance that gives you the confidence to move forward.