“Retirement is wonderful if you have two essentials – much to live on and much to live for.”

– Unknown

Quick…when I say “Retirement,” what pops into your head?

Stress-free. Relaxing. Freedom.

Sounds pretty great!

But is that what retirement is really like?

Yes…and no.

You’ve spent most of your career preparing for retirement by taking care of the finances. Historically that’s what people like me have tried to help you with: getting your financial house in order, so that when the last day of work comes, all you have to worry about is enjoying it.

But then the next day comes. And the next day. And the next day…and you start to realize, retirement is actually pretty hard.

There are things that people didn’t tell you about. Things that you didn’t plan for because—let’s be honest—you either didn’t think about it, or you thought they would be positive things.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to tell you that retirement sucks. Retirement can be one of the most exciting phases of your life! But let’s take a moment to turn off the calculator, put away the financial statements, and talk about some of the things that happen in retirement that no one ever told you about.


 #1. You’re busier than before


 If you expect a lot of rest and relaxation during retirement, think again.

The truth is that house-work, planning vacations, volunteering, family obligations, hobbies, and much more will quickly overwhelm your schedule. Although fear of boredom is often cited as one of the primary fears going into retirement, surveys have shown that finding enough time to accomplish everything you want to do is a far more common problem.

One cause of this is not being able to gauge how much you can handle. Since you don’t have the 9-to-5 career clogging up your life, it’s easy to feel like you can handle anything!

But that career served an important role besides delivering a paycheck. It was also a filter. Everything had to run through it, and that was non-negotiable. If something wasn’t part of your main job, it was “extracurricular.”

Now that’s gone, and like a void that needs to be filled, the world of endless possibilities rushes in and causes chaos. “Extracurricular” got promoted, and now it wants to run your life.

Finding balance is essential for a happy, healthy retirement. Time management is still a useful skill to have. Even more important?

Managing your energy.


#2. You spend more money


I hear people say all the time that they will spend less in retirement. No more gas for commuting, no more lunches out, no more expensive work clothes—they’re going back to basics.

This misconception could not be further from the truth.

A recent survey from Massachusetts Mutual found that 50% of retirees spend the same amount or more in retirement as they did while they were working, and the primary culprit for this is also exactly what makes retirement so enticing:

Lack of structure.

In theory, we like the idea of not having any structure, not having someone tell us what to do, not having to show up for work every day.

But when the daily routine of a career disappears, you have to fill your time with something—hobbies, travel, etc.—to give your life a sense of purpose and structure. And all of those somethings cost money.

Another issue is not adjusting to your new income. Spending habits are incredibly hard to change. And if you fail to acknowledge that, then it’s almost impossible.

To begin with, be as realistic as possible when figuring out a retirement budget. Then, add an additional percentage that can be applied to any unexpected costs. 

Most importantly, make sure you’re building some structure into your life, so that you’re managing your time, and giving yourself a realistic way to adjust your spending habits to align with your income.


#3. You watch the market closely…WAY too closely!


Your parents—or at least your grandparents—probably didn’t rely on personal investments for their retirement.

Baby Boomers are the first generation funding their retirement primarily through personal investments, including retirement plans like 401(k)s and IRAs.

The natural reaction then, when your livelihood is placed squarely in the hands of the stock market, is to watch closely for fluctuations. Sometimes way too closely!

But whether you watch it or not, guess what?

The market will go up and down anyway—and there’s nothing you can do about it!

So why worry? This unnecessary stress is unhealthy, and most of all…it’s avoidable.

The key is knowing you have a solid strategy based on sound financial advice. When you keep that in mind, suddenly those scary market fluctuations are not the end of the world, but just another bump in the road.


#4. You’re anxious about the future


Work helps keep us grounded. We’re all prone to worry, but the task in front of us diffuses the worry.

Retirement—especially if we’re naturally prone to worry—opens our minds to unfettered anxiety.

What if I don’t have enough money?

What if the market crashes?

What if I need expensive medical treatments?

All valid concerns. The problem occurs when worrying grows excessive. It’s almost impossible to shut down.

And that’s truly something to worry about! Well, not too much.

The first thing to do is to acknowledge that these fears are real and valid, but that your level of worry has gone overboard. Losing sleep, obsessing, loss of enjoyment…all signs that you need a healthier outlet.

Next, learn to recognize when outside sources are feeding into your negativity. Companies that sell products for seniors like reverse mortgages, gold coins, etc. all thrive on negativity. They make big bucks on stoking your fears.

Shut them off!

But also get proactive. Take control of recognizing the many blessings in your life. Remind yourself daily how much of your fears are beyond your control, anyway.

Fear and anxiety can seriously derail the dreams you have for retirement. So if you are struggling to cope, swallow your pride and ask for help!


#5. Your social circle gets smaller


You might not realize how much you enjoyed your social interactions at work…until they’re gone.

What you thought was simply a benefit of your job—making friends with your co-workers—turns out to have been one of the actual purposes of work.

On the other hand, having an active social life during retirement takes a little more effort on your part.

Get your dose of friendly banter by scheduling lunches or shopping trips with friends and loved ones. If you’re more of an introvert, consider signing up for a club or group activity that forces you to get out.

And…don’t confuse social media with the real thing! Retirees use Facebook a lot, but there’s no substitute for genuine personal connections.


“Retirement is like a long vacation in Las Vegas. The goal is to enjoy it the fullest, but not so fully that you run out of money.”

– Jonathan Clements


Although some people spend their entire lives planning for their retirement, there are almost always unplanned realities that retirees face during their golden years.

While you might not be able to predict everything that happens post-retirement, you can prepare yourself by learning from the experiences of others…and by expecting the unexpected.


Are you Financial Adviser Compatible? Take the QUIZ here to find out. Byron W. Ellis, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, CRPC®, is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and Managing Director with United Capital Financial Advisers, LLC, a Financial Life Management firm. The information contained in this article is intended for information only is not a recommendation to buy our sell any securities, and should not be considered investment advice. Please contact your financial adviser with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. © Byron Ellis