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Planning for the financial and emotional side of retirement

Henry Jennings explores money and the four stages of retirement.

Henry Jennings | Marcus Today 

I have been overseas in September. Missed all that negativity, but I had my own brush with ‘Debbie Downer’ as I encountered a new phenomenon. Well new to me anyway. The question that I had not had before from family and friends. A killer blow. Are you still working? It came as a bolt out of the blue. Do I really look so old that the question arises. Many of my friends have stopped working and are retired, including my brother. A director at Merrill Lynch with a good retirement package will do that. The question arose a lot. I thought the bags under my eyes had gone. At least Ryanair missed these at check-in. They don’t miss much.

Now we all think of ourselves as a youthful whatever. 25 forever. They even make moves about it, but the reality is that 60, is the new 50. Or is it? My father would have been retiring at 65 to die at 70. He had no SMSF to manage his retirement. This is a new thing. He would have had the state pension and whatever else he had in private arrangements. His life after retirement would have been relatively brief. The prospect now, is that we will spend a third of our lives retired. That is a crazy thought and a demographic nightmare for governments. Logan’s Run (1976) springs to mind.

We spend so much time planning for the financial side of retirement but failing to plan for the emotional side of things. Some years ago, I 'retired', post-MacBank, I had a long sabbatical. You could call it ‘retirement’. I called it a break. Family time. I was way too young to retire. Way too young, but it gave me a taste of the issues. I went from an important divisional director at one of the country’s most successful investment banks to a nobody overnight.

I always thought the lunch and drinks invitations were based solely on my sparkling wit and charm. Seemed not so. Seemed all the invitations that come with being so important dried up. Yesterday’s Man. It came as a shock and caused me to reassess things. It was hard to adjust to being a ‘nobody’. We base so much of our identity on what we do and take that away, together with work and social networks, and it can be a tough time. It was.

Now I am significantly older, and the prospect of retirement beckons. The question is asked. "Are you still working?"

Well, yes, I am. And you know what, I like working. I like routine, and I like where I am. Watching recently retired Europeans shuffling aimlessly from one café to another or driving a van from one site to another and sitting outside under the awning is fine for some. But I am not ready for it just yet. No Victor Meldrew moment for me. Grey-haired Germans on big bikes zooming around mountain roads on a beautiful hamster wheel holds no appeal. Watching friends wake with no plan, no purpose and no routine every morning. It has given me an insight into my own plan.

I have canvassed this with a few close friends. One pointed me to a great TED talk on retirement planning from Dr Riley Moyles. 2.2m views. Here is the link.


Retirement is not only about the money, but the emotions. Far harder to plan for sometimes. The executive summary, from the good doctor, is that there are four stages of retirement.

  • The initial, celebration or holiday lifestyle.
  • That is followed by the lost stage where you get bored and depressed. Lack of purpose.
  • Then we head to the experiment phase where you try to find something that gives your life meaning and purpose.
  • Lastly comes the fourth stage - happiness, again. Some say that is the happiest they have ever been. Many do not reach the fourth stage. Too many get stuck on stage two. 

There is a fifth involving dribbling and forgetting who you are, but let's not dwell on that yet.

Having watched a whole Spanish town look like it had become the backdrop for a German version of Cocoon II, I decided that I needed a plan. You do too.

It is just as important to plan mentally and emotionally for retirement as it is to plan financially. It is a third of your life, after all. That deserves planning. In the TEDTalk, the Dr says that every day 10,000 Americans retire.

Here are some further fun facts for US retirees, most of whom seem to go to Italy straight away.

  • About 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day, and the entire generation is expected to reach retirement age by 2030.
  • The average retirement age is 65 for men and 62 for women.
  • To retire comfortably, you’ll need to have 80% of your pre-retirement income.
  • The average mean retirement income in American households was $73,288 in 2021.
  • 36% of Americans believe they’ll never get to retire.
  • The median retirement savings for baby boomers amount to $202,000 per household.
  • Baby boomers have an average of $191,650 in mortgage debt.

I would imagine a similar thing happens here, but that overseas trip is now much more expensive given the AUD fall. I've checked, and the number is 700 a day retire, according to Challenger. 

Some more Australian stats.

  • There are 4.1m retirees.
  • Average age at retirement (of all retirees) was 56.3 years.
  • 140,000 people retired in 2020, with an average age of 64.3 years.
  • The average age people intend to retire is 65.5 years.
  • Pension was the main source of income for most retirees.
  • 28 people in Australia have SMSF balances over $100m (latest number just released)
  • 135 have balances over $50m!
  • The average super balance was $170,000.
  • The government is planning to make changes to the tax regime on balances over $3m. That doesn't seem a lot really. It is expected to hit around 80,000 people. Think that is going to prove pretty unpopular much like franking credit changes were.

The upshot is that a plan is imperative. We can help with the financial, but the emotional bit may prove more difficult for some. Many people I talk to say they are looking forward to retirement. I ask what they are going to do? Retire, they say. But what are you going to do with the last third of your life? Retire. Do what I want to do. What is that? Sometimes silence ensues. Too many times. Golf? Getting my handicap down. 

So yes, I am still working. Many in retirement devote their time to managing their money and the stock market. Some get addicted to it, and it becomes a job and replaces a previous work life. Nothing wrong with that at all. It’s a good thing, and if I stopped working, I would do the same. After being in financial markets here and in London, since I was 17, it would be a hard habit to break. And if I am thinking about markets constantly, then it's not a big leap to be writing about it and sharing my thoughts with others. Maybe in retirement, I could start my own TikTok channel or become a ‘Finfluencer’. Seems not a million miles from my current role, so I might as well continue to do that until I lose the passion. 

My retirement plans are a work in progress. Have you got an emotional plan in place? A financial plan is a must but don’t forget your mental health.


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Marcus Today is a stock market newsletter founded by Marcus Padley over 20 years ago. Its key contributors have a uniquely open and honest writing style and are known for ‘telling it how it is’. The Marcus Today website also contains resources including educational articles and a stock database. Marcus Today has four feature areas: Strategy, Portfolios & Stock Ideas, Market Overview, Resource Tools and Education.