“How Retirees Spend Their Time: Helping Clients Set Realistic Income Goals” looked at the top 20 activities of middle and high-income retirees (age 50+ with at least $60,000 in household income). The research indicates that retirees spend the largest chunks of their time sleeping and watching TV. Which leads the authors to suggest that since these activities are not income draining, retirees may not need to worry about living beyond their resources.
Whoa—let’s stop the car right here. Does that mean that the warnings from every financial institution—from commercials to glossy brochures—are misleading? That the books warning about the looming disasters for those nearing retirement are false? The answer is a clear maybe.
The substance of the study does point to a retirement of inactivity and inertia. And yet some of the reasons for that may well include:
- Unless directed, very few people take the time to map out a retirement strategy.
- There is a lack of qualified professionals to help consumers make good decisions.
- People who lack training and knowledge avoid trying to look into the future because they lack the tools to properly evaluate options and opportunities.
Of course, there may be a variety of other factors, but these three seem to jump to the front of the line. People don’t plan for their most preferred futures because they don’t know how to, can’t find or are unable to afford qualified professionals or lack the perspective to think objectively into their futures.
To avoid their fate, you want to develop a higher level of awareness and the willingness to get out of your own head. Here are a few ideas to think about:
- You don’t know what you don’t know. Therefore, getting objective advice is critical. Your life in retirement should reflect your values and what you care most about in your life. Sorry, but reruns of Hogan’s Heroes are not a substitute for living a life that is full and rich.
- Your money mindset—how you see money—impacts your ability to make decisions, big and small. If you are a money avoider or a worrier, you will tend towards doing nothing, especially without sufficient information to push you out of worry.
- You do not need rafts of money to live a meaningful life. Many retirees find great satisfaction from a variety of activities that are not couch related, such as volunteering and mentoring, taking classes or attending lectures, walking tours, exploring local sites and attractions, joining an organization to increase community and finding ways to be active physically and mentally.
- It takes a designed level of separation to think beyond your life today. Give yourself the time and space to imagine your life beyond your present routine. Having a guide/coach/planner to help you prepare can be very helpful.
Objectivity is perhaps the key to this discussion because we all believe that we know what we know and are comfortable with our beliefs. We don’t see ourselves as others see us. We have a sculpture of ourselves that we have created from our earliest years that tells us how smart we are, how good-looking we are, how successful we are—all constructed to maintain our feeling of self-worth and self-esteem.
Breaking that structure works against our ego, but deep down, in our heart of hearts, we know that our knowledge is limited. We know we aren’t going toe to toe with our favorite movie icon or multi-multi-multi billionaire.
That’s not to say that without billions and movie star looks we are less than…in fact, the acknowledgement that we aren’t “all that” in every area of life is a pretty good indication that we’re in touch with reality.
Regardless of your current age, if sitting in front a TV and sleeping presents a satisfying picture of life—then no need to focus on the future. But if your life in retirement holds an image of something more active, engaged and interesting, it’s never too early to begin to consider the possibilities and the financial price tag to fulfill those dreams.
Here’s to happy dreams!