Three Keys To A “Fantastic” Retirement: Planning, Purpose And Perspective

5 minute read

“I was scared to death to retire.” That’s how Anne Richter Ashley, a nearly 40-year veteran of the local television news industry, says she felt before making the leap into retirement. And she’s not alone. From being worried about losing your sense of purpose to fears that you’ll outlive your savings (which 52% of Americans are afraid of, according to Alliance for Lifetime Income research), it’s enough to keep anyone up at night.

How do we get over our retirement-related worries and embrace this next chapter in life? According to Clare Ansberry, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal who covers the turning points in people’s lives, it comes down to the three P’s: perspective, purpose, and planning. In her reporting on pre-retirees and retirees, she says far too many people think of this shift in life the wrong way. “People anticipate retirement as the end of something, as opposed to the beginning of something,” Ansberry shares. Altering her perspective to look at retirement as a new beginning is what helped Anne Richter Ashley go from being scared to excited about retirement. “Nobody ever explained to me that retirement was fantastic,” she says. “I think it’s all in your perspective. I saw this as my new job…to get out there, have fun and see the world.”

WATCH Your Money Map: The Keys To Living “Your Best Financial Life”

Retiring is a major life change. It’s an even bigger transition if you’re doing it as a couple. From working together to craft a financial plan that meets your needs to making sure you don’t get on each other’s nerves during all that extra free time you’ll have, there’s a lot to navigate. On this episode of “Your Money Map”, Jean Chatzky sits down with Clare Ansberry of The Wall Street Journal to talk about how retired couples can make the most of this turning point in their lives. Plus, they’ll be joined by a couple who not only retired together but also worked side-by-side for over two decades.

Purpose, Ansberry says, is another factor in enjoying retirement. How will you fill your free time? Will you continue to work part-time? Will you volunteer more? After working for so long, many retirees feel a loss of identity once they stop, which can take a toll emotionally. Ansberry says one of the biggest trends she has seen among those in the Peak 65 Zone® is an increased number of people who are continuing to work; some for the financial benefit, others for the socialization and sense of purpose it provides. “Some people will retire from their full-time job, but get other part-time jobs,” she notes. “It’s not ‘reach 65 and retire.’ It’s ‘reach 65 and maybe retire…but maybe not.’” Whether you find your purpose by taking another job or clocking more volunteer hours, not only can it lead to more fulfillment, but studies have also shown doing so can help prevent cognitive decline.

Last but not least, planning is of course the major factor at play when it comes to engineering one’s retirement. It’s something that can be even more of a challenge for couples on different timelines, or with different interests they want to pursue. For Richter Ashley and her husband, Brian, it didn’t take long to get on the same page. For 20 years, the duo co-anchored their local evening news. Brian was the first to move on from the newsdesk though, retiring from TV to take a position with a non-profit agency. Anne retired shortly after but decided to travel instead of pursuing a second act like her husband. Brian’s envy of his wife’s freedom got the best of him though and after about a year in his new position, he decided to retire completely. “It didn’t take long for me to say, ‘Okay, she gets to travel, I get to go to work…I think retirement might be a little better.’”

As Ansberry explains though, not everyone can pick when they retire. She discovered through her reporting on the Peak 65 Zone that while there’s an age when people assume they’re going to call it quits, it rarely works out that way.  What happens? Situations beyond personal control.  Some people are let go from their jobs, others suffer a health setback, still, others need to take on caregiving responsibilities for a loved one. “People just assume they’re going to work and then they’re going to travel but all of a sudden their spouse or their parents need care and they can’t juggle both so they leave their jobs,” Ansberry says. “I think that’s sort of a reality check for a lot of people.”

Many older Boomers, as Ansberry notes, have “some sort of security and guaranteed income,” generally from a pension, whereas people on the younger end of the spectrum don’t. For those without enough protected income to count on – lifetime income you’re guaranteed to receive –  an annuity can help fill the void by covering your basic monthly expenses so you have the peace of mind–and freedom–to live a retirement that’s both fulfilling and fantastic. And to figure out how you can check-off your basics, here’s a quick, handy guide.

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