MONEY matters

Mark Zaifman's thoughts on money, global economic trends and politics

More Time or More Money - Which Road Do You Take?

Mark Zaifman   |    Tue, Mar 26, 2019 @ 10:42 AM

mark on a path

Imagine you’ve been following a customized financial plan diligently for the past 10+ years. I say 10+ years and not 20 or 30 years, because truth be told, in my experience as a financial planner specializing in retirement planning, most people don’t buckle down and take retirement planning seriously until they’re about 10 years away from this major milestone in life.

Now imagine the number, the number that’s been in your head, in your dreams, the number you’ve known about and thought about, the number that represents your financial independence, your financial freedom from ever having to work another day for money has been reached. Now what?

Retirement is calling you

Let’s say your spouse retired a few years ago and has been anxiously awaiting this day. The reality of reaching your net-worth goal, (your number) slowly settles in. At first, you really can’t believe it. It’s been so many years of keeping your head down, working, saving, keeping your spending under control, and now here you are, you made it to the finish line.

Next, imagine it’s time to review your new retirement spending plan given your employment income has stopped or is about to stop soon. Suddenly, the thought of having to begin withdrawing money from your investments instead of contributing to your savings and sticking to a spending plan makes you feel anxious.

If you’re like many of my newly retired clients, one of your first thoughts will be, should I work another year or two just to play it safe?

Keep in mind, this feeling of should I work a little more, even if all the stress tests on your finances have been conducted and there is absolutely no risk of ever running out of money in retirement, is very common. This is often where lingering worries about money, perhaps worries you’ve had ever since you can remember, come into clear focus and often sabotage your retirement plans.

Long ago, I used to have a black belt in money, so I know the feeling well. Worrying about money for most people, myself included, usually starts at a young age. It’s also usually behavior we have consciously or unconsciously observed from one or both parents and have adopted for ourselves.

It becomes a very familiar place in our emotions, where oddly enough, worrying about money, because it is so familiar, actually feels like a safe place to go emotionally. Like any bad habit though, worrying about money is a very difficult habit to break. But break it you must, if peace of mind around your finances is what you are seeking.

More Time or More Money

Even though we spend so much of our lives working and saving enough for that one day when we have 'enough' to be financially independent, the thought of being retired and no longer needing to work still freaks people out.

Perhaps it’s the amount of time that needs to be filled each day, week, month and year that causes the anxiety. Or perhaps work, your career or business has so defined who you are that without that in your life, you feel out of sorts.

Ultimately, as many times as you run the numbers and finally realize and come to accept that you’re good to go into retirement, the ultimate decision comes down to more time or more money. Maybe you’re in a position that enables you to work another few years regardless of your net-worth. What’s the trade off to that decision? Time. Time you can never again regain.

If you’re looking for an excuse to keep working, even though you no longer need to work for money, you’ll have plenty excuses to choose from. You may say to yourself, well, I’ll just work another year, maybe two, just to play it safe. Just in case…..

Here’s the bottom line

A financial planner can do their professional best and guide you right to the point of financial independence. But what they can’t do is make you stop working if you choose to keep going past the finish line and stay in the race.

The one question I always ask my clients that are in their late 70’s, 80’s or 90’s, is if they had a do-over in terms of planning for retirement, what would they do differently? Practically all wish they had not been so worried about money pre-retirement and second, nearly all wish they had retired earlier if that was financially possible, so they had more time as opposed to more money.

You’ll eventually come to that T in the road when approaching retirement. Even when the numbers show unequivocally that you have enough saved up, or more likely, more than enough, to retire confidently and securely, you’ll be put to the test.

Do you take the road less traveled and keep on working, giving up your precious life energy for more money in the bank because of old and outdated feelings of fear around money that no longer are needed, or do you take the road filled with abundance that results in more time for yourself, more time with those you love and peace of mind?