retirees

The Two Most Common Fears of Retirees  

By Debra Brede

Over the past thirty years of helping clients achieve stable, fulfilling, and purposeful lives in retirement, I’ve had the chance to become intimately familiar not only with their goals but also with their fears. What keeps pre-retirees, retirees, and even those who are still deeply entrenched in their working years up at night?

While my independent practice has always been about providing custom-tailored solutions—meeting each client’s unique needs with careful planning and active management—it turns out most of my clients have something in common: namely, the exact same worries when it comes to retirement. And chances are, you do too. Why? Ultimately, all of us want the same thing: a sense of security today and tomorrow.

We want to know that we will be okay, no matter what the world throws at us. And any of us who have been around long enough to be considering what life will look like in retirement know that uncertainty is an inherent part of it. In this day and age, we only need to look outside our window to realize just that.

With the knowledge that there are bound to be moments that thrust us out of our comfort zone and into the unknown, financially or otherwise, all of us are fearful at one point or another. But when you can name those fears, you can address them head-on, gathering the resources and support to thrive even when the going gets tough. So, let’s take a closer look at two of the anxieties I help clients confront most often:

Will I have enough?

I often ask clients how much retirement savings they think they’ll need to feel financially secure. One of the most common answers? Ten million bucks (for some reason, it’s especially popular with doctors). What is that answer based on? Nine times out of ten, absolutely nothing.

Often, people reach for the largest number they can wrap their heads around. They go big because they’re not sure what they need to begin with. In turn, that number overwhelms them. They start to worry about how they’ll ever save up that much. But here’s the thing: it’s possible to actually figure it out. The amount you’ll need in retirement doesn’t have to be a night-terror worthy mystery.

Together, we look at lifestyle, purpose, family obligations—the whole nine yards. And when we do, we often discover that the number they plucked from the ether is just that: somewhat arbitrary. Meanwhile, when we have a target based in reality, we can take steps to achieve it.

What will I do with all that time?

For many, this fear doesn’t arrive until they are fast approaching or already in retirement, but it’s one worth considering earlier on. The fact is, regardless of how busy life feels right now, of how much you’re looking forward to a day, month, or years-long break, we all need a purpose to keep us going. Without one, time stretches out in a way that is uncomfortable rather than enjoyable, and feelings of loneliness and depression can quickly set in. Even your physical health can suffer.

But fortunately, countering this common fear is pretty easy—it just takes a little soul searching, and it’s something I make sure to do with every client. Their interests are as diverse as they are: some choose to spend their time caring for their grandchildren. Others are grateful to have the opportunity to pursue a new passion. Still others put their career training to work, providing pro bono support to deserving organizations. When we both know their purpose, we can make plans that reflect it, helping them stave off stress and find fulfillment for the rest of their lives—all while cultivating financial security.

I find that there’s comfort in knowing that many of us fear the same things; it makes for a less lonely existence. But more than that, there’s relief in knowing that we can actually do something about a lot of our anxieties. Even better news: You can start assuaging those fears right now by taking the time to define what peace of mind means to you.