Mattson Financial Blog

Who Am I Now?

You sat down with a competent advisor, you’ve done the math, and you know you’re not going to run out of money in your retirement. In fact, you know there’s going to be money left over to pass on to family members. You’ve worked in your industry for 40–50 years, and it’s time to say goodbye. 

All those things you thought you would be doing in retirement as you were putting the dollars away and thinking about the future may be very different now. 

I was in California working at age 35 when Nancy and I decided that we were going to get married. I’d known her since sixth grade (that rumor is true), but I enjoyed California and wasn’t looking forward to going back to winter. We made an agreement that after retirement, we would move back to Southern California to an area that I had fallen in love with. She’d fallen in love, too, with the beaches, cliffs, and sunsets.

Fast forward 30-plus years later, and we have two daughters who live within 15 minutes of us, four grandchildren, and a year ago, my mother moved from Florida back to Michigan at 97 years old. I know without having to ask that California beach-living is not going to be on my horizon.

It turns out that’s okay with me. So many people reach their goals and find that the preconceived ideas of what they would do in retirement are no longer valid. 

Let’s face it, you’ve been producing a product, working with a team of people, or having a brand all of your life. Now, during retirement, what are you going to be doing? There are only so many hours you can use taking care of grandchildren, traveling, or even doing part-time work.

So now it’s time to assess a different list of assets. And for a truly fulfilling retirement, it is really about what you enjoy. 

In retirement, I know that I will still be getting up between 5:30 and 6 in the morning. I’ve been doing that since I was a youngster. Even when I stay up late until 1 or 2 in the morning, my body will still be getting up at 5:30 or 6. Not that I like it — but that’s my internal clock. Nancy, my wife, gets her second wind and likes to vacuum at 9 o’clock at night. So sometimes, we’re not on the same page. And that’s okay.

When Nancy retired after 37 years in the automotive industry, she looked in the mirror and asked, “Who am I now?” She had many people who depended upon her and took advice from her on a regular basis, and now she wasn’t leaving the house.

For many people, this could be a time when depression sets in. So Nancy had to assess her skills and go back to what she knew and felt good about. And she wanted to be an interior decorator. 

Now, she did not start up a business. Instead, she’s been helping family members liquidate estates and determine what has value, what has potential for donation, what has recyclability, and what is junk. If you ask Nancy if she is bored, the answer is that she doesn’t have time to be bored. She found fulfillment in dedicating time to our church, giving time toour community through the arts commission, and being a fair board member. Tack on being a grandma as well as a caregiver for her mother, and you’ll see she has a full plate. 

The beautiful thing is that we still have time to do the things we want to do together, which includes traveling and spending time with our children and grandchildren. (Living on a lake made it possible for them to come to us as much as we go to them.)

So, as you look forward to leaving the nest of a steady paycheck, health insurance, and other financial safety nets, you’ll also have to take an assessment of where you are personally. What’s going to be your fulfillment in retirement? Are you going to be grandma or grandpa? Are you going to be a volunteer? 

Are you going to have a part-time job or even start a new business with your grandchildren, as we’ve had several clients do? They know they have financial flexibility, and they get the enjoyment of spending time with the grandchildren and teaching them business skills. That was something that was never even on their radar when they talked about retirement. 

I even have one couple that sold all their worldly belongings. The few things they wanted to keep as mementos, they parked in one of the children’s basements. Now, they travel through Europe to a new city every 30 days, just carrying two small bags and an electric frying pan. They find comfort living in a new city and really entering into the lifestyle and culture. They fly back for holidays and share their experiences. 

The first thing to do is to take an assessment of what you enjoy. These are the golden years, so while your health is good and your mind is capable, you have a lot of opportunities. More importantly, you have a lot of knowledge that you can share. I know growing up, it was easier listening to my grandparents give advice than my parents, especially in my teenage years.

So who am I? Make the assessment and decide who you want to be, then allow your assets to help fulfill your new goals. 

October is the month of wearing masks. Some of us get to be policemen, doctors, or superheroes that we wouldn’t be any other time of the year. Halloween is only one day out of 365, but retirement is a long time. Now it’s time to determine who you’re going to be.

–Gary Mattson