Retirees Stress Need for Health and Emotional Planning

An Ameriprise study polling the first wave of Baby Boomer retirees finds health and emotional preparedness are keys to a successful start to retirement.

A new study from Ameriprise Financial finds that more than three-quarters (76%) of Baby Boomers who retired within the past five years felt “in control” of their decision to retire. According to more than half of recent retirees, physical health (53%) and emotional preparedness (52%) are the main contributors to this sense of control.

The “Retirement Triggers” study, which surveyed 1,000 newly retired Baby Boomers ages 60 through 73 with at least $100,000 in investable assets, explores the driving factors behind why people decided to retire when they did. The most-cited responses included:

  • “I decided it was time to enjoy life,” or “I no longer wanted to work” (51%);
  • “I reached my retirement savings goal/My adviser helped me understand I could retire” (17%); and
  • “I was forced to retire by my employer/was offered early retirement incentives/lost my full-time job” (16%).

Marcy Keckler, vice president of financial advice strategy at Ameriprise Financial, says the study shows that choosing a retirement date can be an emotional as well as a financial decision. The retirement advice industry is finally seeing how the first wave of Baby Boomers approached this critical decision point, she says. 

The Ameriprise study shows that most Boomers feel confident after retiring. In fact, the first five years of retirement appear to be a honeymoon period for many, as a large majority (75%) of these retirees said they are “very satisfied” with their lifestyle in retirement. Just as many said they spend their new free time doing what they had planned to do in retirement, and nearly one in three (31%) said there was nothing difficult about transitioning into retirement.  

The hardest aspects of retirement cited by respondents are emotional adjustments such as losing connections with colleagues (37%), getting used to a different routine (32%), or finding purposeful ways to pass the time (22%), Ameriprise says. Despite these challenges, 65% of recent retirees said they fell into their new routine fairly quickly, and half (52%) said they have less free time than they thought they would before retiring. Nearly half (43%) said they are having more fun than they expected.

It’s not just a sense of optimism that is driving respondents’ confidence, Ameriprise says, as many new retirees also feel financially secure. More than half (57%) of study respondents said they are very satisfied with their financial situation in retirement, and another 37% are somewhat satisfied.

This may help explain the fact that only one in 10 (11%) of these new retirees has returned to work in any capacity during retirement. Indeed, Ameriprise finds most of those who are working for pay say they didn’t take a job in retirement for the income but because “it seemed like an interesting opportunity” or because they “wanted some intellectual stimulation.” 

Overall, very few new retirees who felt in control before their retirement date have second-guessed themselves. Nearly all (98%) said they are satisfied with their decision to retire when they did. However, if they could do it over again, one in three (31%) respondents said they would adjust the timing of their retirement (14% said earlier, and 17% said later), and nearly as many said they would save more money prior to retiring (29%).

Stress appears to be a natural emotion leading up to retirement, Ameriprise says, even for those who are overwhelmingly happy now that they have left the work force. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of newly retired Boomers said they felt stressed about retirement before making the decision, but only 25% said they still feel stress now that they’ve been retired for some time.

Younger Boomers preparing for retirement should take note of what made their predecessors feel most confident leading up to retirement, Ameriprise says, as well as some of the things they wish they had considered more carefully before pulling the retirement trigger. The majority of respondents said, that while preparing for retirement, they felt completely confident about affording basic needs in retirement (75%), their ability to pursue hobbies (62%), and keeping their minds active (60%), all of which helped them make the decision to retire. However, fewer felt confident about developing social connections in retirement (45%) and preparing their estate plans (35%).

One surprising result from the research, Ameriprise says, is that fewer than one-third (29%) of new retirees said that eligibility for Social Security and Medicare was a driving factor in their decision to retire. Researchers say the fact that 70% of respondents draw a portion of their retirement income from a pension may help explain why.

This is not to imply that the first wave of retiring Baby Boomers was not focused on their finances, Ameriprise notes. Most new retirees (94%) said it was extremely or somewhat important that they felt financially confident about retiring before making the decision to do so. Despite this, some are still working out a few financial tweaks, as 22% of respondents said they are spending more than they thought they would in retirement. Nearly as many (24%) believe they underestimated their monthly or lifetime retirement income needs. On the flip side, 28% of new retirees shared that they were spending less than they had planned to thus far.

“Oftentimes, the importance of preparing emotionally for retirement can get buried in all the financial decisions that must be made important, leading up to this milestone,” Keckler concludes. “In reality, emotional and financial preparation go hand in hand. A financial adviser with a comprehensive approach can be a great resource for people of all ages to help ensure they’re considering all dimensions of retirement before pulling the trigger.”

More information on the “Retirement Triggers” study is available here