The Five Challenges that Surprise Retirees the Most

August 1, 2023 |Scott Kubie

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The Five Challenges that Surprise Retirees the Most

What will surprise you in retirement? Anticipating retirement challenges is hard. You’ve never done it before. People you know going through retirement feel social pressure to say life is going great. That means people you know are likelier to talk about the highlights than admit to their struggles.

The survey exposed the most likely retirement surprises by comparing the expectations of those nearing retirement with the experiences of the retired.

A recent survey of retirement blog readers can help. The survey exposed the most likely retirement surprises by comparing the expectations of those nearing retirement with the experiences of the retired. As we review key data elements, remember that the people surveyed were likely some of the most prepared for retirement. They have recognized it as a challenge and have been reading blogs on that topic. So, if the people who gave the most thought were surprised, the average person is even more susceptible.

Below are five surprises that can help you or someone you know to be better prepared for stepping away from full-time work.

1. Retirees missed the people at work. The biggest surprise to retirees was how much they missed their colleagues and customers. Less than 30% of those yet to retire anticipate missing social interaction at work. Over 60% of retirees listed it as something they miss from work. It was nearly 20% higher than the number two response, “the paycheck.”

2. Retirees missed the work. Retirees were also surprised about how much they missed the mental stimulation of work. Nearly 40% of retirees missed the mental stimulation of work, while just over 20% of those yet to retire expected mental stimulation to be an issue. Work is challenging. Whether we want to admit it or not, challenges keep us engaged.

3. Retirees didn’t reimagine themselves. Many retirees also wish they had better identified what would bring them meaning and purpose in retirement. A significant portion (33%) agreed they wished they had prepared better, and only 18% indicated they were fully satisfied with their preparation. Interestingly, retirees didn’t struggle as much with letting go of their work identity. Retirees scored themselves much higher at letting go of that identity. What they seem to lack is a vision for their next chapter.

4. Retirees were surprised by life. Retirees seem to plan more for the routine and underestimate how variable life would be in retirement. Unexpected health or family crises were a concern for 55% of retirees, about 10% higher than what those yet to retire expect. Conversely, expected regular events were easier to manage for retirees than those still working expect them to be. Concerns about outliving savings, rising health care costs, and boredom were not as big of issues as expected.

5. Retirees worry about the world more. 53% of retirees were concerned about economic and political upheaval. Only 40% of those still working expected to be concerned about those issues. Because they no longer work, retirees have fewer options to recover from turmoil. They also have more time to watch the news. A steady diet of stories about what is wrong with the world will shape you.

Knowing these challenges and actively preparing for retirement can equip us to make that transition more smooth. As Christians, our beliefs, community, and identity in Christ can help us to navigate retirement challenges. Many retirees have found that volunteering their time and expertise is a fulfilling endeavor. If done correctly, it provides community, mental challenges, and an identity that can do a lot of good for someone else while helping you at the same time.

Scott Kubie, CFA

Want to avoid “surprises” in your retirement? Consider reading Afterwork An Honest Discussion about the Retirement Lie and How to Live a Future Worthy of Dreams, by Joel Malick, Alex Lippert with Dean Merrill.

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