The book 65 Things to do When You Retire reflects the changing face of and shifting attitudes toward retirement. The book is a collection of essays from a wide range of distinguished contributors from the fields of politics, the arts, business, finance, social activism, medicine, and retirement planning. Some of the more familiar names include former president Jimmy Carter, Gloria Steinem, and Jane Fonda. Collectively the book offers insights and inspiration for the 21st century retiree, who may have a more vital and engaged view of their senior years, taking their cue from the title of contributor Mary Lloyd’s book, Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love.
But these retirees face challenges their predecessors did not, and that can wreak havoc on the emotions, which in turn, can prevent people from properly planning for retirement. Millionaire Corner spoke with Aaron W. Smith, a financial coach, about his contribution, “Four Emotions to Manage when Maintaining Your Nest Egg.”
Millionaire Corner: How has retirement changed for 21st century retirees?
Aaron W. Smith: My parents are an example. They worked for the same corporations for decades. They got the gold watch and the pension and they lived happily ever after. Today, workers may have five to 10 jobs in their lifetime. We have to be much smarter about their money because pensions are a thing of the past. There has been a shift to defined contribution plans, such as 401(k). So we are practically on our own (when it comes to managing our retirement savings).
We are also seeing a more active retiree, who is living longer.
MC: What are the biggest concerns your clients have about retirement?
AS: Number one is, ‘I want to make sure I don’t run out of money before I run out of time. My biggest challenge is that they haven’t been taught financial literacy. They didn’t get it in school or their professional lives. They have learned professionally how to make money, but when they are on verge of retirement, they don’t understand how to position themselves on how to make that money last.
MC: Your essay is about emotions. Talking about retirement is difficult for many people. What is at play there?
AS: Many are fearful, especially since the recession. That changed the game a lot. I’ve seen a lot of individuals go into a shell. They hear in the media (how bad things are). So what you have here are people who put off retirement planning; they wait until they need the prescription, as it were. When they know they need to take the prescription, they seek solutions, but in many cases they wait until later than earlier to do this. Some wait until three months before they actually retire. But better late than never, but still, you don’t have many who are pro active.
MC: Playing in to that fear is that retirement planning can be very intimidating, especially for those, as you said, without financial knowledge
AS: They don’t know what they don’t know. They have the ability to be successful in their retirement but they are just so fearful to seek advice. Many individuals have not sought the advice of a financial planner because they don’t know what to expect. Once they sit down, they don’t know how to relate or what questions to ask. The emotions they are experiencing have a lot more to do with the lack of a financial IQ and knowing what processes are there for them to help be successful in their retirement.
MC: How do you work to assuage that fear and get the retirement conversation started?
AS: We create a positive mindset. We talk about the positive things that are happening in the economy. Those individuals who start to get positive are more open to do something about where they are in relation to retirement. They just need to take their heads out of the sand.
Another thing that can get them more comfortable with the process is get a clear picture of their values and what is important to them regarding their retirement years. Do they want to spend more time with their family, their spouses, their church? And what we find is that what they really want to accomplish with their wealth is to maintain their independence. So the goal is to create a way to achieve that goal. They get more comfortable as the process goes on.
MC: You write about how shame impacts retirement planning.
AS: That feeling of, ‘I didn’t prepare in the way that I should be.’ Here are people who may be accustomed to success in school and business. No one wants to be seen as a failure. Shame can stop you in your tracks from becoming financially successful in retirement. The more you avoid the process, the further behind you get and you have to play catch-up.
MC; Today, there is a lot more information available to us. What role is that playing in retirement planning?
AS:. People are using the Internet a bunch (laughs). You see 60-somethings with their iPads. They are using their technology to engage. They are more willing to use Skype. Prior to this information age, they only wanted face-to-face meetings. As a result, I’m seeing clients becoming better educated about the economy. They are going to more workshops and seminars, and participating in webinars. They are seeking advice and calling in with more educated questions. A lot of that has to do with the new technology.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.