When one of my clients announced they wanted to retire at 55, my main concern was how they’d fill all their spare time once they’d left the workforce.
I needn't have worried because when I saw them recently, seven years after their retirement announcement, I was quickly put in my place.
Within weeks of retiring, my client had launched herself into a number of projects and activities. Her diary was packed out.
What was particularly interesting was that all of her new hobbies were completely different from her previous vocation. She’d achieved what I like to call ‘the great reset’.
The great reset
During our working lives we’re often focused on ticking off one large goal after another. Getting a good education, progressing in our career, buying a house, getting married, having children and so on. Meanwhile, those of us who are concerned with retirement are squirreling money away for later life.
It’s important to protect our elderly selves, but we can become so obsessed with saving for the future that we don’t think about how we’ll fill our time once we get there.
We might talk about going on more holidays and spending time with family, but we rarely delve much deeper than that. Running out of money is a common concern, but few people worry that they’ll waste their retirement.
We spend our whole lives working up to this level of freedom, only to let it go to waste. That’s why I encourage my clients to see retirement as a fresh start. It’s a time to be creative, use your imagination and do things you never had time for when life consisted of endless school runs, laundry loads and Zoom calls.
Putting yourself first
Whenever I start working with a new client, they often have a list as long as their arm of things they’d like to achieve in the lead-up to their retirement.
They usually want to pay the mortgage off, fund their children’s education, put down generous house deposits for their children and grandchildren. I’ve noticed that most of those goals are about providing security and foundations for others.
There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s often the right thing to do, considering how challenging it can be for younger generations to make progress financially.
But retirement is a time to be selfish too. Otherwise, there’s a risk that the first five years or so can just pass you by. Gone in a flash.
You’ve got to set time and money aside for yourself as well as others. Forget what they want. What do you want?
Be creative. Your financial planner will focus on the numbers
When I say all this to clients, they’re often in disbelief. They assume that in order to put themselves first, they’d need to neglect their offspring’s tuition fees or their grandchildren’s driving lessons. But trust me — it’s possible to find a balance between both.
The way I see it, it’s my job to reassure clients that the sky’s the limit. With a good financial planner at your side, you’re unlikely to run out of money — even if you live to 100. Your planner will take care of the numbers, telling you how much to put where and how often. Follow their advice and you won’t have to operate from a place of scarcity and fear.
Once you believe everything they say to be true, you’ll have the confidence to pursue your dreams before it’s too late.
If you’re around 5 to 10 years from retirement, I’d suggest spending 3 days a month exploring new activities. Perhaps you could try homebrewing, windsurfing, or spend a weekend visiting a medieval castle in France. The idea is that you’ll use this time to build a dossier of hobbies and interests that you can throw yourself into when you have more time.
I feel strongly that we shouldn’t spend our lives working ourselves into the ground in the hope of one day finding that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We’ve got to find ways to enjoy life in the present, rather than postponing all happiness and fulfillment for a future that’s not guaranteed.
But if you’re in your 40s or 50s and you’ve spent much of your career so far stashing money away for retirement, you may as well think big. Instead of preparing for a retirement that consists of mere survival, see your later years as an opportunity for growth and discovery.