December 7, 2022

Liz Weston: Reluctant to retire? 3 signs you’re ready


Many people don’t have a lot of choice when they retire. Illness, job loss or babysitting responsibilities push them out of…

Many people don’t have a lot of choice when they retire. Illness, job loss or babysitting responsibilities push them out of the workforce, ready or not.

But some people have the opposite problem: they have a choice, and yet they can’t quite stop working.

Some people love what they do and never want to retire. Others are crippled by fear of the unknown, say financial planners. They may worry about living without a paycheck, spending the money they have worked so hard to save, or figuring out how to organize their days when they are not working.

“A lot of people I see are financially ready before they are emotionally ready,” says Cathy Gearig, certified financial planner in Rochester Hills, Michigan.

If you’re having trouble, here are three signs that you may be ready to retire.


Retirement is often described as a never-ending, stress-free vacation. In reality, retirement requires potentially stressful “paradigm shifts” or fundamental shifts in how people approach people’s lives, says CFP Barbara O’Neill, author of “Flipping a Switch: Your Guide To Happiness and Financial Security in Later Life ”.

Instead of earning a salary, for example, retirees must create one from their savings and other resources. If something goes wrong – the furnace goes out or their investments don’t perform well – they can’t just make more money to make up for any shortfall.

Those who have been diligent savers often find it difficult to spend their money in retirement.

“It’s very emotional for people,” says PSC Janice Cackowski of Willoughby, Ohio. “They are so used to seeing their account balances increase over the years and they really have a hard time withdrawing money from their accounts.”

According to some financial planners, other fears, such as fear of becoming unnecessary or simply being bored, can cause people to postpone their retirement. Gearig says some of his most successful clients, including business owners and senior executives, have prioritized work to the point that they can no longer imagine life without it.

“Honestly, the biggest fear I see is, ‘What am I going to do with myself if I’m not going to work all day?’ Gearig says.

Once you know what scares you about retirement, you can start addressing those fears, financial planners say.


If your concerns are financial, you can hire a fee-based financial planner to review your retirement plan. Choose a planner who is a trustee, which means they are committed to putting your best interests first.

Getting expert advice is a good idea in any case. The Planner can help you maximize Social Security benefits, navigate Medicare or other health insurance options, decide the best way to retire, plan for possible long-term care, and determine a sustainable withdrawal rate of your savings.

“This will be your only retreat. Getting it right is paramount, ”says Adam Wojtkowski, CFP in Walpole, Massachusetts.

Using sophisticated planning software, the advisor can also stress test your plan to see how it performs in the event of a major market downturn, rising inflation, tax rates. higher or premature death of you or your spouse, says PSC Shelly-Ann. Eweka, senior director of financial planning strategy for the financial company TIAA.

PSC Michelle Gessner of Houston manages her clients’ plans through various combinations of events. Then, she performs a “maximum spend” test to see how much money they can spend before the plan fails and they run out of money.

“I’m really beating the hell out of these shots and then (the clients) can see, ‘Hey look, that’s still working,'” says Gessner. “‘And if this still works, maybe I don’t have to be afraid anymore.'”


Many retirees struggle, at least initially, to find a purpose and structure for their days. Having a plan for how you’re going to spend your time can help, says CFP Ian Weinberg of Woodbury, New York.

This plan may include a list of trips and experiences that you can start to check off. Or, you can create a pie chart or timeline of how you want to divide your time between various activities: hobbies, volunteering, fitness, time with family, travel, etc.

Retirement can also be an unexpected loneliness, especially if you’re single or your partner is still working. If your main social interactions were with coworkers, you may need to find new friends, says PSC Patti B. Black of Birmingham, Alabama. Black recommends consulting with volunteer groups, clubs and courses.

You may need some time to mentally and emotionally prepare for retirement. Don’t let the preparation go on indefinitely, because the future is never guaranteed, Gearig stresses.

“Just jump in and enjoy the ride,” Gearig says.


This column was provided to The Associated Press by the NerdWallet personal finance website. Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score”. Email: Twitter: @lizweston.


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