Getting the Most Out of Retirement

Did you know that the fastest growing demographic group in the United States is people over the age of 85? As health care improves, people are living longer. Most people today can expect to spend about one quarter to one third of their lives in retirement. Which begs the question: are you prepared for that change in your lifestyle? Riley Moynes, author of the book “The Four Phases of Retirement”, doesn’t think so.

More than just about money

The financial press tends to focus on money and retirement. Do you have enough saved up to retire? Can you afford to maintain your lifestyle? What will your income and spending look like in retirement? Frankly, for a lot of people, answering these questions can be quite challenging.

Even more challenging, though, are questions about your new life as a retiree. How will you stay healthy, engaged, and satisfied? In our article, Three Secrets to a Satisfying Retirement, we lay out three keys to getting the most out of your retirement years: financial security, health, and relationships. The first can be summed up with numbers and financial concepts. The other two are just as important, but far more nebulous.


We’re happy to answer any questions you have about our firm and our processes. Here are answers to some of the questions we receive most frequently.

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Four phases of retirement

According to Moynes, there are four phases of retirement:

Vacation – The first phase of retirement is relief and relaxation. You’re free to do whatever you want, unchained from the boss and the daily grind. This is when leisure activities and checking off the ‘bucket list’ predominate. According to Moynes, this phase typically lasts about one to two years.

Feeling Lost – When we retire, we tend to lose structure, identity, relationships, and purpose. This is especially true for men who typically don’t build strong social relationships outside of work or romantic partnerships, which can lead to higher rates of divorce and depression.

Trial and Error – This phase begins with the question “what can I do to make my life meaningful and productive again?” It often involves trying to find something other than personal gratification to motivate and encourage you. And it is rarely a straight-line journey, often involving false starts.

Reinvent and Rewire – This can be the true happiness phase of retirement, often characterized by a renewed sense of purpose or mission. One of the reasons for this is that renewed purpose or mission can also provide some of the structure that is lost when you retire. It also often involves serving others in some way.


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The importance of relationships

While Moynes’ research focused on finding a renewed sense of purpose and meaning, an 85-year Harvard study (begun in 1938) found that the most common thread among happy retirees was social connections. People don’t miss working, but they miss working with people. According to a Forbes article on the topic, “a good social life:

  • Provides a sense of belonging and feeds our personal identity.
  • Adds meaning to life and strengthens self-worth.
  • Provides support, making it easier to handle problems and keeping stress levels in check.
  • Gives us something to do and someone to do it with.”

Social isolation, it states, can be as risky to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The Harvard study recommended looking at your existing relationships, trying to understand what makes them good, and figuring out how to enrich and continue those relationships in retirement, or what to look for in new ones. These questions included:

  • Who are the people I most enjoy working with, and what makes them valuable to me?
  • What kinds of connections am I missing that I want more of? How can I make them happen?
  • Is there someone I’d like to know better?
  • Who is different from me in some way (different perspective, different background, different expertise)?
  • What can I learn from them?

Moynes quotes the Harvard Business School study as saying that, “The unhappiest retirees had not gone on to do anything productive beyond pleasing themselves.” His interviews with fellow retirees and the research done by sociologists and psychologists all suggest that a happy, healthy retirement requires more than just a bucket list. You are more likely to enjoy retirement with a sense of purpose and community, with people you appreciate and who appreciate you.

Sound finances are important for financial security, but as you can see, they are not the only determinants of a happy, healthy retirement. At Blankinship and Foster, we help you organize your finances and plan for retirement, so that when you do retire, you can be free from worry about your finances, and concentrate on your new job: enjoying life!

Disclosure: The opinions expressed within this blog post are as of the date of publication and are provided for informational purposes only. Content will not be updated after publication and should not be considered current after the publication date. All opinions are subject to change without notice, and due to changes in the market or economic conditions may not necessarily come to pass. Nothing contained herein should be construed as a comprehensive statement of the matters discussed, considered investment, financial, legal, or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and no investment decision should be made based solely on any information provided herein. Links to third party content are included for convenience only, we do not endorse, sponsor, or recommend any of the third parties or their websites and do not guarantee the adequacy of information contained within their websites.

About Rick Brooks

Rick Brooks, CFA®, CFP® is a partner of Blankinship & Foster LLC and is the firm’s Chief Investment Officer. He is a lead advisor, counseling clients on all aspects of personal financial management. Rick serves on several boards. He is the Chairman of the Board of Girl Scouts San Diego, and also chairs the San Diego Foundation’s Professional Advisor Council. Rick and his family live in Mission Hills. Rick enjoys spending time with his family, theater, cooking, skiing, gaming and reading.

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