Avoid retirement. It’s not what you think. In fact, there is a dark side to retiring that few know about until they’re living it.
Retirement planning means more than just finances. It’s also, “what are you going to do with your life?” Travel, grandkids and hobbies only go so far.
In this New Way Forward interview, Robert Laura shares the critical questions and considerations needed to make this phase of life a success. Robert is a Retirement Activist who is committed to changing the way people think about and prepare for every aspect of retirement. His nationally syndicated columns at Forbes.com and Financial Advisor magazine reflect his groundbreaking efforts to challenge the status quo of traditional retirement planning. He is also the founder of the Retirement Coaches Association.
More and more recent retirees are feeling like they’re failing, unhappy, and unfulfilled. They have purpose and lack passion for their life. They’ve lost their relevance. Alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, and depression are on the rise for people who feel like they are “failing at retirement”.
On the other hand, with decades of healthy and active life ahead, more and more people are forsaking retirement for New Way Forward. Making this time of life “My Turn!”. For those that can’t afford to retire, they are finding new ways to earn #income by being self-employed, entrepreneurs, changing careers and a myriad of other options.
Connect with Robert:
Company Website: retirementproject.org
Personal Website: robertlaura.com
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Podcast Transcript: Avoid Retirement – It’s not what you think
Robert Laura: Traditional retirement planning is it’s flawed, it’s dangerous, it’s a difficult transition that, you know, most people can’t wait to get there, but then they get there and they’re lost and confused. People don’t realize is there’s a dark side to retirement. And if you don’t have a plan for everyday life, you know, the dark side includes depression, addiction, suicide, which again, when you connect all those dots, leads to a loss of identity, a loss of purpose. And so there are some really scary factors. If you don’t have a plan for everyday life helping you find your new way forward to the best years of your life.
This is a new way forward podcast with Paul Long.
Paul Long: It is one of the most catastrophic decisions that people are making in this day and age, and that decision is to retire. What are you crazy, Paul? Retire a multi-decade vacation. Well, in the first place, a lot of people can’t even afford to live an extended lifespan with an extended health span. But what they’re also discovering is is that retirement isn’t all that it cracked up, to be sure they go through, you know, the retirement honeymoon of six months to two years. Hey, it’s great. I don’t have to get up in the morning, blah blah blah, all that kind of stuff. But then all of a sudden they say, I’m failing at retirement, I’m failing at life. Robert Wora in this interview is going to give you point by point throughout the entire interview, so I encourage you to watch every bit of it. The downside and how to avoid them. The dark side of retirement and how to avoid that and how to help make sure the years ahead are your best to find the right new way forward for you. And Robert knows what he’s talking about. He started out as a financial advisor, helping people with their retirement plans and realize, whoa, there’s more to it than just the money. There’s also what are you going to do with your life? And then in looking into that, he realized retirement isn’t right for a lot of people who assume that it is. Robert wrote the book Naked Retirement. He started the Retirement Coaches Association. He’s a speaker. He’s been interviewed on major publications and news channels, and he is a regular columnist for publications such as Forbes.
Paul Long: So let’s get to it. So let’s start with the harsh reality. And to me, this is a this is a humongous wake up call. People wake up going, I don’t have enough money to retire. But your premise is, is that it’s bigger and more critical and life changing than just finances. What is it that people are realizing the hard way?
Robert Laura: Well, they’re wasting some of the most important years of their life trying to figure out retirement because they don’t have a plan for the non-financial aspects. They don’t have a plan of hanging out with friends or their health or their overall well-being. They lose their purpose and identity and they struggle. And so traditional retirement planning is it’s flawed, it’s dangerous. It’s a difficult transition that, you know, most people can’t wait to get there, but then they get there and they’re lost and confused. And that’s kind of the interesting part, too, because it’s supposed to be the best time of your life. So you can’t really go around saying, Hey, retirement doesn’t feel good because people are going to be like, that’s not possible, it’s supposed to be the best time. And so it’s actually a very traumatic change and difficult for people to make the transition.
Paul Long: So you make two points there. First of all, dangerous. I mean, that’s a pretty bold term that current financial planning mentality is dangerous. How so?
Robert Laura: Well, if you think about, you know, you get to retirement, but everything you’ve been trained your entire life, all of a sudden changes. So now you don’t have to be productive, you don’t have goals, you don’t have a schedule. That’s great for the first six months. But then you start to kind of lose yourself and you start to start to try to figure this stuff out. And again, no one’s talking about it. And so everyone just kind of like, Get there, here you go, and then you’re kind of left to fend for yourself. Time and time again, I have clients come into my office. They’re they’re struggling. They don’t know what to do. They’re not sure if they should go back to work. And there’s just a lot of confusion with the whole process.
Paul Long: So, yeah, what is that mindset? So that mindset is is, well, I’m going to sit on my boat. I’m not going to have to be under any pressure. I’m going to play golf, I’m going to hang out.
Robert Laura: The problem is vague assumptions. And so people, just kind of when I get to retirement, here’s what I’m going to do. So I’ve got three or four things in their head. I’m going to volunteer, I’m going to play with the grandkids, I’m going to play golf, but it’s not enough to fill their time. So I encourage people to write down what’s a perfect day and a perfect week look like in retirement. And for the first time, they’re challenged to just be able to sit down and say, What does the morning, afternoon and evening look like? And most people get to Tuesday and they’re kind of lost, and it leads to this Groundhogs Day where they keep living the same life over and over. But it’s boring and it’s monotonous and it’s not fulfilling. And again, things like they want to volunteer well. Volunteering isn’t all great. You know, you may find the work’s not satisfying. Same thing. You want a part time job. Great. Well, nobody wants you to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Is from nine to 11 for 20 bucks an hour, it just doesn’t exist, and so people go into retirement with these vague ideas and vague assumptions, and then they get hit with reality and they’re lost.
Paul Long: And part of the reality is our longevity. And as I always tout, OK. It’s not just that well, when the notion of retirement really came about in the 1950s, you know, the average lifespan was in their 60s. Right now, it’s late 70s and it’s fastly approaching early 80s. But it’s not just living longer, it’s that you’re living healthier, more vibrant, you’re more enabled and so on.
Robert Laura: For it, it’s, you know, it’s a it’s a tricky thing for Baby Boomers because there’s assembly line thinking of what I call it is. So everyone’s told you’re going to live longer, you’re going to live longer. And as a planner, we’ll say, Hey, you’ve got to live, you know, we’ve got to project out ninety or ninety five, maybe even a hundred. And most boomers will say, if I make it to eighty five, shoot me. Of course, you can’t really shoot them, but it just goes to show that they think they’re tacking more years onto the end of their life, and they’re going to be less capable for a longer period of time. That’s not the case. And so what I share is that a lot of people, you’ve got to look at that superchargers are being installed from 50 to 75, and so boomers have time, money, resources, knowledge, skill, and they’re not done at sixty or sixty five, but they’re confused again because they’re supposed to be done, but they’re not sure what that means. And no one’s out there giving them permission or telling them, Start a business, get a second career. Do these other things don’t just go out, you know, ride off into the sunset because you’re not going to be satisfied with it, because what are you going to do for thirty or thirty five years? And so it’s about giving people and boomers permission to look at that phase of life differently and not just, you know, Oh, I’m going to get to this point in my life is over. So it’s a very different mindset that people really haven’t understood or accepted yet.
Paul Long: The mindset thing really strikes me because you’re right through so much life, we operate on assumptions, we operate on what our parents did or our grandparents or what societal expectations are. And yet, ironically or significantly, it was baby boomers that for the first time in history, really broke that mode in their youth where they’re like, Don’t tell me what to do, I’m going to signify, right? So is it happening again?
Robert Laura: It is, and I think the challenge for boomers is they have bad role models. You know, your parents did not have a type of retirement that you’re going to have. And so again, if you think about, you know, that generation, they just they’re very self-reliant. And so they didn’t talk about their problems or what was going on, they just took care of it. Well, that’s changing with boomers because they’re willing to share social media is changing it because they’re talking about, I mean, again, the biggest thing I come across is issues with couples and dealing with the retired husband that, you know, he doesn’t have purpose. He’s found his wife around the house, all these other things. And so these issues are starting to come out. But again, there’s not a lot of solutions out there because of the stigma with retirement that it’s this perfect, awesome time of life, but it isn’t for everybody, you know? But again, it can be. But it’s about that planning component and really looking at what do you want your life to be like because most people haven’t done the work?
Paul Long: So again, a lot of people might be thinking, Well, what I want my life to be like is less stress, more free time and things of that nature, as you’ve already called out. That’s not necessarily the case. And there are some you gave me some stunning statistics that I’ll let you go through. But first of all, in a survey, you did that only 25 percent of Baby Boomers had figured this out had actually addressed this. And then just list after list after list of the consequences of not doing this. And they’re scary.
Robert Laura: Well, no one’s requiring people to do it again. Even if you look at corporate retirement plans, they’ll have an annual enrollment. They’ll talk about your ass allocation, how much you need to save, but they’re not talking about what you need to do once you retire the non-financial piece. So it’s very compartmentalized. The research we did, it’s called the Retirement Priorities Quiz, and so it’s free, it’s online. You go through these 10 questions. We’ve had over 12000 people do it, and it’s shocking because no one has just really said, what does a perfect day or perfect week look like and actually not just think about it because that’s what people, you know, if I said, What’s your perfect day in retirement, it looked like you could rattle off a couple of things. What’s a perfect week look like? That’s a different ballgame. And if you haven’t written it down, you’ve got to go back and do that. And I think the other thing people don’t realize is there’s a dark side to retirement. And if you don’t have a plan for everyday life, you know, the dark side includes depression, addiction, suicide. And it was interesting because when I wrote my book Naked Retirement, I’d give it to a doctor friend of mine. I said, Hey. You know, give this a read through, and I was expecting him to come back clapping and nominate me for a Pulitzer Prize, but instead of, do you think I was missing anything? He goes addiction. He’d worked at a local hospital and that’s really where they seen just a real growth in prescription drug issues, alcohol addiction. There’s over two million people over the age of sixty five with full blown depression and rates of suicide are highest among white males above the age of sixty five, which again, when you connect all those dots, leads to a loss of identity, a loss of purpose. And so there are some really scary factors if you don’t have a plan for everyday life, and
Paul Long: You also called out a study that also hit that. I mean, the complete opposite. You think of retired people, think of retirement. It’s life is easy. Life is good. And yet in this list, the 10 most stressful challenges out of the 10 most stressful challenges. And I know you want to go through the 40 most stressful, but that most of them are most of the most stressful things that we experience in our entire lives. Happen in retirement or result of retirement, right?
Robert Laura: Right. Yeah, so there’s something called the homes really stress scale, and what they did is they looked at, you know, what are the most stressful events in life? And the more that you have, the more likely you are to become ill or have other challenges. And so what’s interesting is of the forty three most stressful events, 20 can happen near or in retirement and actually number 10 on the list is actually retirement itself. And again, that’s not what people are. Your advisor or your HR department aren’t saying, Hey, watch out for retirement. It’s going to be really scary. But it is because again, you’re everything is changing your role, your identity. You can’t no longer say, Hey, this is Bob the financial advisor. Now I’m Robert Lorre, the retired guy, and that can stop a conversation. I think an earlier point to just about retirement magnifies what you already are. That’s hard for people to understand. Some of my workshops when I’m talking to people, what’s everyone say when I retire? I’m going to start eating better. I’m going to start working out. I’m going to. There’s no magical fairy dust that makes people more motivated in retirement. And so when I say it magnifies what you already are, so if you’re unhealthy, if you if you eat a lot, if you’re if you’re not exercising, you’re just going to do more of it. And more time often gets filled up with more stress. And so you have more time to worry. So that’s what you do.
Paul Long: So what’s the magic answer? Well, it is it. Is it purpose?
Robert Laura: Yeah. Well, I think a combination of things. One of the most underrated things associated with the non-financial aspects of retirement is your social network time. You know, Harvard did a longitudinal study over seventy five years. What they really found is that the deeper and the stronger your relationships are, the longer you’re going to live, the happier you’re going to be. You’ll offset, you know, Alzheimer’s and dementia for years. And so social network is a critical component. So who you surround yourself with purpose is critically important and how you identify yourself or who you identify yourself with. And again, it is a process. There’s no magical answer. And that’s I think the paradox of retirement is you think you’re leaving work, but it takes work to retire. And so you still have to apply yourself. You still have to use your skills, you still have to make the most of your life. You can’t just be done and throw your hands up and assume everything’s going to be OK. And so that again, is just an opportunity for people to start to relook at it. And that’s that’s what most of my stuff is about. It’s not to be a buzzkill and say, Oh, retirement is scary and terrible, but to say, Hey, you have to kind of wake up to this. And part of what I like to do is, I call it vaccinating people. When you vaccinate a child, you introduce something negative a germ into their body. So they’re so they’ll build up the defenses to fight it off. It’s the same thing I’m trying to do with retirement. You’ve got to interject some of this negative and scary stuff, so people are aware of it and you can start to work towards fighting it off as well.
Paul Long: Well, and it is a wake up call. But I also wonder if it’s an enabler in in my own experiences to the changing mindset. Again, just like in the 60s, it’s like, wait a minute, I want to take what’s on offer. There’s a lot of boomers did. Now they’re doing it, looking at a long, vibrant life ahead. A lot of opportunities and a desire to leave a legacy live with no regrets. Do my own thing. Are you finding that to be the trend when people start thinking about it?
Robert Laura: Yeah, they get it. And again, it’s just the tools and resources because, you know, so you know, you have to go to a financial adviser, you know, you have to I mean, you don’t have to, but you have to have the asset allocation, you have to have the savings. So you’re given these tools and these priorities. No one’s done that for the non-financial aspect, which again, to your point, one of the things that I like to do and it’s actually a free software out there, it’s called legacy nprbooks.org. It’s something that we developed and it allows you to just start to relook at your life. And again, it’s called an ethical will. And so everyone knows about traditional. Estate planning, you have a well and a trust. Well, how do you pass on your values, your beliefs? And again, a lot of people want to focus on transferring wealth, but wealth does not create wisdom. But if you transfer wisdom, you can create or maintain wealth long term. And so the process of creating an ethical will allows you to connect to your path to the future. Share those things you know who are important people in your life who helped you get to where you are. Who would you thank? What do you want your kids to know? How did you make tough decisions? Those are all powerful pieces that people can again, a tool for the non-financial aspect, which I think is important.
Paul Long: So when clients come to you? Give me kind of a standard typical case and how things evolve, they come to you. I would imagine, first of all, saying I need help with my finances. I don’t have enough money, right? And where does where does it evolve? Ideally? Well, I think
Robert Laura: It happens a couple of different ways. So depending upon where the client comes from, so some people come through me for the financial aspect, so they were referred from someone else. They want me to look at these pieces. And then over time, it’s just an interjection of the stuff. A lot of times it’ll just start with me giving them a copy of my book Naked Retirement. And so there’s some people who want to be more hands off who want to kind of go through this and figure it out for themselves. Other people come through my workshop and so they’ll go through naked retirement. And as I connect with them on a personal level, then they want to work with me financially. That’s the preferred way because we have more of a relationship and a connection, because to a certain extent, financial service is somewhat commoditized. You know, everyone can do some similar things, but really, again, it’s about understanding the person and how do you connect the person to their resources? That’s what makes a difference, because one of the other challenges with traditional retirement planning is most people are afraid to use the resources so they get to retirement and they don’t want to touch their money. They’re scared. They’ve been, you know, brainwashed that if you touch this money, you will be broke as a joke dependent upon other people and you’ll die broke. And that’s just not the case. You know, people save their money. This is the time to use it, especially in the first few years. But again, if you don’t know that or don’t have a connection to the things that are important to you, it won’t matter. And again, that’s what planning for the non-financial aspects does. It tells you what’s important about life first and then lets you figure out what to do with your money. Other people, most people approach it. Hey, I got the money now. What do I do with it? But you got to flip it. You’ve got to know what’s important to you first, because that’ll reduce a lot of the stress associated with the financial aspects.
Paul Long: It seems like with a lot of people that I’ve spoken to, either at or near retirement age or younger that. That’s a huge mindset shift. For instance, I talked to a couple of guys in their mid-40s, young kids still going, Hey, I bet you can’t wait till return. I’m like, I’m never going to return. They’re like, You’re like, incredulous. And I said, Let me ask you, do you want to retire or is it you don’t want to be doing the career and the job that you’re doing now? And they were like, Oh, wait, a second, that’s different.
Robert Laura: That’s right. And that’s why I think that, you know, everyone hates the word retirement. And so my replacement word is retirements just making it plural. You’re probably going to retire from two or three different careers or you should plan to kind of dabble in those things. I think the other important thing you brought up about retirement is that’s what changed my focus. I had a conversation with a guy. I was early in my career as a financial advisor, as a friend of mine, his dad, he was in town helping his son remodel a house, and I was over there and I just I said to him, I said, Ernie, I said, must be great just to be retired, come into town, help your son have the resources to help them. And he stopped dead in his tracks. He looked at me and he says, Bob, don’t ever retire because you won’t mean a single thing to anyone anymore. Yeah, I was. What do you mean? I won’t mean anything to anyone anymore. And the way he portrayed retirement just scared the heck out of me. Because you’re thinking retirement, it’s the holy grail. It’s where everyone wants to get to. And here’s a guy for the first time me hearing someone say, don’t ever retire because you won’t mean anything to anyone anymore. And it was a wake up call. And that’s kind of what started me on my journey to to figure out why would that be the case? Why would someone say that? And that led to this whole psychology of retirement and looking at this non financial aspect.
Paul Long: So with all that said, and with everything that we’ve said, tell me what people are assuming retirement is first of all and. Kind of the cliff they fall off of as a result.
Robert Laura: Well, it’s no different than, you know, when you decide to have children, you know you’re married and you think, Oh, we’re going to have kids, it’s going to be so fun and happy and it’s going to complete us. And then you have a baby and they’re colicky or they’re up at night or they have all these other needs and things. And so I think people go into it with this vague idea that it’s just this grand stage and it’s going to unfold magically and everything is just going to come easy and automatic to be less stress. But that’s just not how it works. And so the cliff they fall off is when they realize they’re living at Groundhogs Day or that they’re starting to drink at noon on Tuesday instead of wait until Friday to hang out with the guys or they realize they don’t have the the social network or the connections that they had before. And so they really struggle with all those pieces, and it comes at different people in different ways. And so that that cliff is just that reality, that it’s not easy. It doesn’t just magically unfold. It can be great, but it does take work.
Paul Long: It sounds like it sounds like it almost boils down to as simple as without purpose. So you need purpose. Absolutely. So tell me, tell me if I’m sitting here going, OK, you got my attention. Gulp. What’s the way forward and related to your book to and which your book offers in terms of, well,
Robert Laura: That’s why I wrote the book, you know, so the book focuses on really the four of the five years, so the five key areas to a successful retirement, mental, social, physical, spiritual, financial, we don’t cover any of the financial. That’s how we came up with the term naked retirement. Like, because we’re stripping away the numbers, we’re getting rid of old and outdated ideas. And so the concept of naked is not, you know, nudism but stripping the old stuff back. And how do you really, you know, look at these pieces. And so we have a series of exercises we take people through, like the first ones, the retirement perceptions quiz. We asked people about their perceptions about retirement, but then in the book, we kind of guide them towards thinking about it in a different perspective. We ask people, what’s a perfect day and a perfect week look like? We asked people to do a friends list. And again, this is interesting, because when’s the last time you wrote down a list of your friends or who you want to hang out with in retirement? And then one of the things we do that I do with clients is even dig a little bit deeper. How would you characterize those relationships? Are they strong? Are they you know, how many people are close, how many people are distant? And so then as you go through like a friend list and then we do a curious list.
Robert Laura: And so again, what are you curious about? So I don’t want you to have a bucket list or to do list in retirement because it feels like it obligates you if you create a curious list, this just identifies what you’re curious about. You can read about it, you can experience it, but you also don’t have to. And so it’s a much lower barrier for people to start to think about what they want to do. And then we take them through, you know, a health kind of exam if you’re not an exam, but, you know, writing down, you know, what are some things that you want to do continue to do or do that will make you healthy? And also, just what is your family health history says you might have to watch out for. And so we created it’s a process for people to go through because if you ask if you thought about someone who has a successful retirement, what do they have? They’ve got a plan for everyday life. They’re mentally strong, they’re capable. They’re doing things with their mind. They have, they’re keeping physically active. They’re, you know, socializing with people. They have a spiritual connection. Some capacity, whether it’s meditation or church or something like that. And so you can start to peel back and see what makes a successful retirement. And then you just have to have a plan for each of the areas
Paul Long: And for someone who is already in retirement. So let’s say in your mid-60s and you’re all of a sudden going, Oh my gosh, this isn’t working out. This is why I had no idea it would be this bad. Is it too late?
Robert Laura: No, no, no. Again, it’s about that reflection time. So you’ve got to go back and you’ve got to have a process of formula to go through this. And whether you go through the stuff inside the book, whether you go see potentially a career counselor or a career coach to talk about, should you re-enter the workforce, what does that look like? That’s why I like the ethical will the legacy notebook. Because again, let’s start to explore what’s going on for you, because that’s what and sometimes you do need a third party. That’s why the whole industry of retirement coaching, why I’ve pushed so hard to develop it, because there are these people who are just struggling and they don’t know who to turn to. They don’t have anyone to talk to. They don’t need a therapist. They don’t. You can’t go to your necessarily a financial advisor to talk about it. And again, even if you just want to, you know, kind of brainstorm, you know, should I start a business? What does that look and feel like? And so there’s got to be a place that you can turn to and sometimes you need that third party.
Paul Long: And as a point of transparency, Robert and I have been mastermind, you know, and I’ve been there. So it’s finding potentially someone else who has another business credit, a personal friend. They’re not a colleague that you can both bounce ideas.
Robert Laura: All right. Well, and that’s again the importance of a social network. So whether you’re still working or in retirement, you want to be around other people who are doing things who are motivated, vibrant and kind of, you know, pushing new levels, not just moaning and groaning about, you know, politics or the local government or other things like that. So it’s very important who you surround yourself with and whether it’s masterminding, finding someone to mentor or other things. It’s crucial.
Paul Long: So what Through all your studies and your experiences, too, are you finding that people either approaching or entering retirement years are recognizing right away? I don’t want to retire. I want to maybe look at this as my turn or my chance for my big idea or something like that? Or are you finding that much happening?
Robert Laura: It’s starting, you know? So again, it’s it just hasn’t reached mainstream proportions that you know again, retirement is still looked at as a financial event, and that’s the end. What I’m trying to change is really to push this other agenda to say, Hey, let’s look at these other things. So people are getting there. But what I started doing my workshops about 10 years ago, I actually had people leave because I wasn’t talking about anything related to money, even though the description said. Fun, interactive, non-financial, because it was so tied to it and so more people are attending, you know, the entrepreneur workshops, the naked retirement workshops, knowing that they’ve got to do this work, but until corporations, until larger financial institutions get on board, it’s not going to change.
Paul Long: You don’t think people will change it by their demands.
Robert Laura: It’s a tough call because I think it’s evolving and I guess probably more of just me being impatient like I want it to happen now. I do think people will change. I think boomers are changing it, but it’s not happening fast enough.
Paul Long: So no one piece of advice. No one. Take away from this conversation and your book.
Robert Laura: Really, you got a plan for the non-financial aspects. You know, running out of money pales in comparison to running out of family, friends and good health. And so you’ve got to look at those pieces first, I think Walt Disney said. When you understand your values, you know, life is kind of easy to make decisions. Well, you really have to understand what you value. What’s important about the other aspects of life before you decide what you’re going to do with money in retirement?
Paul Long: Excellent.
Robert Laura: Robert, thank you. Thank you. Appreciate it.
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Avoid Retirement – It’s not what you think
with your host, Paul Long.