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Smart Strategies

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Building Emotional Wealth

Retirement planning isn’t just a numbers game. Preparing for the emotional side is just as critical.


You’ve planned financially for your retirement, but have you prepared emotionally? That means carefully thinking about what will make you truly happy in the next big chapter of your life. And just as you want to diversify your retirement investments, you should aim to build a well-rounded emotional plan. To achieve true happiness in retirement, there are three key areas you should invest in now to build your emotional wealth, says Diane Nelson, market researcher, Customer Insights & Analytics at Athene.

Work
Retirement used to mean leaving the workforce completely. And while that’s still true for some, nearly three-quarters of American adults believe they will continue working past retirement age, with 40 percent saying they will do so because they want to. For some that means continuing to work in their current field, while others may start their own business or change careers. If you envision yourself starting a second act in retirement, now is the time to network and nurture key business relationships. And if you are someone who is excited about giving up the 9-to-5 grind completely, it’s important to start thinking about what other interests and activities may help give you a sense of purpose in retirement. 

Family 
In a recent survey of retirees conducted by Athene,* 84 percent of retirees reported that family was a key contributing factor to their happiness. Forty-one percent of retirees reported having “close-knit” families—in other words, they were very active in one another’s lives. Another 40 percent of retirees categorized their family relationships as “casual”—meaning they saw and depended on one another on occasion but weren’t regularly active in one another’s lives. Whichever group you fall into, it’s important to have clear conversations with your family members before you retire about your desires and their expectations. For example, adult children may assume you’ll want to help with child care for grandkids, when that may not be the case. Candid and honest conversations can help prevent miscommunications that end up damaging family relationships or causing stress to retirees who feel obligated to try to help out.

That said, if spending more time with family is important to you, Emily Guy Birken, author of The 5 Years Before You Retire and Choose Your Retirement, suggests figuring out whether you’ll want to move closer to them, how much time you’d like to spend on family-related activities each week, and in what way you see yourself contributing to their lives. 

Personal Interests
One of the things soon-to-be retirees look forward to most is having more free time and the freedom to spend that time however they want. However, it’s important not to wait until you’re actually in retirement to figure out how you want to fill that time. Experts say it’s essential to develop interests before retirement. That’s because for many people having a focus when they get up in the morning is much more rewarding than getting up and trying to figure out what they’ll do that day. 

*Participants in this study were provided through the Harris Panel, including members of its third-party panel providers.