Welcome to retirement. Now what?
Some people focus too much on saving and not enough on planning for life after work, financial experts say.
As a financial planner who counsels current and prospective retirees, Kelly Campbell emphasizes the importance of saving for the later years. But as he helps clients consider their future cash flow, he is often surprised by their lack of attention to another kind of planning: How they'll fill their days.Skip to next paragraph
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"People are focusing 80 percent of their time on the numbers – how much money they'll need in retirement, and where it's going to come from," says Mr. Campbell, founder of Campbell Wealth Management in Fairfax, Va. "Unfortunately, they're spending only 20 percent of their time thinking about what they'll do with all that time. A lot of people get in retirement and don't know what to do."
As the first boomers turn 62 this year and begin leaving the workforce, that challenge – figuring out what to do when work no longer fills a week – will loom large for many people. So great is the need that Campbell now devotes his first meeting with new clients to nonfinancial subjects.
"It's one of the most amazing conversations I ever have with clients," he says. "I find out more about them in that meeting than I'd ever find out in any traditional financial planning meeting."
That information, along with their wish list of retirement activities, can help people determine how much money they'll need to sustain their chosen lifestyle.
Campbell suggests that some who are planning their postcareer years could reverse the 80/20 ratio, spending 80 percent of their time considering future activities and 20 percent planning their finances.
In recent months, one woman told Campbell that she dreams of opening a deli on the beach in retirement. Another woman, an attorney trained in biology, wants to take children on nature walks.
While many women have long lists of things they want to do in this next stage of life, their husbands often don't.
"It's really hard to get the men to focus that way," Campbell says. "They focus on the financial." He listened as one wife spent 20 minutes talking about her plans. By contrast, her husband "couldn't come up with anything other than wanting to be sure the kids are taken care of."
Some men talk confidently about having a "honey-do" list of projects around the house. But, Campbell cautions, "Once that's done, they're lost."
When Peter Kilduff retires on Feb. 1 as director of university relations at Central Connecticut University in New Britain, Conn., he knows his "honey-do" list will be waiting. "I think every man in retirement faces this," he says with a laugh. But he also looks forward to continuing a long-running part-time pursuit as a history writer.
Referring to retirement, Mr. Kilduff says, "My wife and I have been talking about this for a long time." Each of them has separate outside activities, and they enjoy shared interests.
From time to time, Kilduff has watched retirees struggle with too much free time. "I've made a little mental note, that's not going to happen to me," he says.
Even women with lists sometimes find anticipation tempered with apprehension as they approach the end of their career. In July, Roberta Winter of Des Plaines, Ill., plans to leave her position as outpatient care manager at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. She will begin collecting Social Security in October.
"It's been a job I've enjoyed greatly, but it's time to pass the baton," Mrs. Winter says. "I'm looking forward to new challenges, but I have some anxiety about what those challenges might be."