The Psychology of Retirement

We spend a huge portion of our careers and saving efforts preparing for when we leave our jobs behind and take the leap into retirement. There’s always a worry that we won’t have enough saved, or the market will take a turn and we’ll end up broke. Even in the media, the most popular retirement-related topics revolve around how to save more, get better returns on your investments, and maximize your savings to ensure you’ll always be comfortable (even if you live to be 103).

However, the Arnold and Mote team believes that all of this talk about the financial side of your retirement is wasted if we don’t address something even more important: your retirement lifestyle plan. Everyone pictures retirement with a rosy lens. You might imagine spending time with grandkids around the holidays, taking more time to golf and fish, or travelling the world. But it’s pretty rare that, when we picture ourselves as retirees, we picture the day-to-day. We don’t plan for how we want to spend an average Monday in September. We don’t plan for real life – and that’s a problem.

Big Goals Are Singular

You might have a retirement bucket list – I know I do! There are places I want to go, and once-in-a-lifetime activities I want to participate in. But here’s the thing, those once-in-a-lifetime activities? They only happen once! I recently spoke with an advisor whose client had dreamed of retiring, taking a Caribbean cruise, and swimming with dolphins. She wanted to bring her whole family – grandkids at all – and had budgeted her retirement savings accordingly. And she did it!

It was the trip of a lifetime. Her whole family will have those memories for years and generations to come. When she came back to Cedar Rapids, she felt a little bit deflated. This trip was the “big thing” she had planned on accomplishing when she retired, and now that it was over she felt a little bit lost.

This is true of many retirees. We plan one or two “big goals” but we forget that those goals are singular. Or maybe we envision a life of leisure – sleeping in, golfing whenever we want, and watching all of our favorite movies in our pajamas at two in the afternoon. That lifestyle can be enjoyable for a short period of time, but it grows old quickly. That’s why it’s incredibly important to envision your retirement lifestyle ahead of time, and to make a plan that’s going to leave you feeling fulfilled for years to come.

We Crave Structure

Even though it sounds like fun to approach retirement like a years-long vacation, it rarely works out in our best interest to do so. As human beings, we crave structure. Before we retired, we achieved this structure through our career. We had set tasks, achievements we were working toward, and long-term goals for ourselves and our families.

It’s easy to forget how integral those parts of your job are to your life, and, often, to who you are as a person. When we lose this structure in retirement, it’s easy to feel a little bit lost. We might feel aimless, or like our purpose is gone. This leads to many retirees feeling depressed, angry, or overwhelmed.

What Can You Do?

Instead of focusing exclusively on the big-picture goals you want to achieve in retirement, create a more comprehensive list of activities that will hold your interest – even during the day-to-day. Determining what aspects of your life you value the most can help you make some key lifestyle decisions ahead of time that will put you on the path to a fulfilling, exciting retirement. A few ideas might be:


Whether you’re interested in long bike rides along the Cedar River, or you want to get involved in free fitness classes at NewBo City Market, staying physically active can help you stay engaged.


Want to spend more time with your family during retirement? Make a plan now! I know many retirees who offer to help their kids by picking up their grandkids from school, or watching them in the summers while their adult children are at work. If this type of a commitment feels like too much, you can still try to plan weekly dinners at your home or an annual family trip at a favorite camping ground. Having these ideas in place before you enter retirement will help you stay connected.


Have other friends who are retiring? Put your heads together and decide how you want to stay involved with one another. This could mean a weekly meeting at a favorite coffee shop, or getting together to go for a walk a few mornings a month. Pick an activity and a time commitment that everyone is comfortable with, and stick with it!


Many people envision themselves travelling more during retirement, which is a fantastic goal. Get started planning some of those trips now. You might even find that downsizing or selling your home and travelling full time through a house sitting program can save money and free you up to see more of the country.


Don’t abandon your hobbies just because you’re retiring! In many cases, it actually makes sense to fully commit to your current hobbies, or try something new! If you love art, set up a studio in an area of your home. If you enjoy fishing, make plans to get out on the water early and often. If you want to try something new, go for it! Many retirees find fulfillment in a new-to-them hobby during their years as a retiree. You could take a free community yoga class, tag along with family or friends to a local sporting event, or sign up for a DIY tutorial at the local hardware or craft store. The options are endless!


Staying involved in your community can help to provide the structure you’re missing during retirement. Many clients here at Arnold and Mote Wealth Management are actively involved in volunteering both within the city of Cedar Rapids, or a local organization or church. You could sign up to volunteer at the local animal shelter, teach Sunday School at your church, or participate in volunteer programs at Mercy Hospital.

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