Retire-o-meter: Measuring Your Retirement Confidence

In the mid-70s The Gong Show used an ‘Applause-O-Meter’ when finalists would be rounded up at the end of the show and the audience would pick a winner via applause. A silly but useful tool. What if you could use a similar tool to rate your preparation for and likely success during retirement?

People I have talked with who are preparing for retirement focus the bulk of their energy creating and worrying about their retirement finances. This preparation is key to secure a successful retirement but it covers only one of four challenges faced during retirement. Those who have recently retired find that their security and success is based on their financial well-being as well as their physical, social and personal well-being.

During my research for Beyond Work: How Accomplished People Retire Successfully (Wiley, 2008) I learned what it takes to retire well and enjoy this new and different adulthood. These retired ‘New Adults’ understood that life beyond work is multi-faceted. Also, they were confident in their ability to live a meaningful retired life.

Understanding what is important during retirement and having the confidence in one’s ability to meet and master challenges differentiate successful retirees from those who are disappointed and unhappy. Understanding is increased with knowledge of what is to come, which increases security and lessens nasty surprises. Talking with experts in retirement, both professionals (accountants, financial planners, doctors, clergy and others) and friends who are a step or two ahead of you is a great way to build understanding. Reading books and articles helps to convert understanding into knowledge and eventually wisdom.

Confidence in the ability to meet new challenges and enjoy life is what pulls accomplished people through the tough times and actually improves their quality of life. This is true at all ages.
How confident are you in your ability to live well once you move beyond work? It’s a hard question to answer. Here are some additional questions:

How confident are you in your ability to:
• Build confidence in weak areas?
• Know which areas are weak?
• Monitor your confidence over time?
• Pinpoint specific challenges that you can learn to master?

As you probably suspect, these are loaded questions. The Roiter Retirement Confidence Profile (RCP) has been developed from the research conducted for Beyond Work. The RCP will help you to answer the questions above and provide you with ideas about how to increase your confidence. It can function as your ‘Retire-O-Meter’ confidence measure. You can complete the RCP at

More than 800 people have completed the no-cost, no obligation RCP since it went on line in June, 2008. It has 20 statements about retirement that you are asked to consider and indicate your level of agreement. For example, how strongly do you agree with this statement: “I trust my judgment regarding financial matters”? The RCP will provide you with your current level of confidence on a scale of 20 to 100. It also provides you with confidence scores in your ability to maintain financial, physical, social and personal well-being. You can complete the RCP as often as you want to determine if you are improving your weak areas and maintaining your strengths.

My hope is that you can use the RCP to help you to build your confidence in your retirement.

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Beyond Work is the “Best Retirement Book of 2008”

Beyond Work: How Accomplished People Retire Successfully (Wiley, 2008) was selected as the Independent Publishers’ Axiom Award Gold Medal winner in the 2008 retirement book category.  The competitively judged Axiom Book Awards presents gold, silver and bronze medals in 22 categories.  “The judging is based on content, originality, design, and production quality, with emphasis on innovation and creativity. The judging panel includes experts from the fields of editing, design, reviewing, bookselling, and library science.”


I was very pleased to learn of my book’s selection and I greatly appreciate the recognition of Beyond Work as a valuable tool for those considering retirement or recently retired.

Beyond Work looks at retirement as a whole life experience and describes the four sets of challenges and opportunities that people face as they move beyond work.  This time of life is much more than leaving work and managing personal finances.  It is about building a successful life by maximizing your financial, physical, social and personal well-being.  The book provides an overview of a successful retirement and specifics as to how to manage and improve your well-being.  Ideas are described using real life stories from the many people interviewed for the book.

Reviews from Amazon readers:

I am in my fifties and beginning to seriously consider retiring. I’ve seen lots of books about preparing yourself financially, and certainly seen “self-help” stuff describing how to be comfortable with yourself when you retire. But Roiter’s book is the first I’ve seen that knits all the areas to consider – social, financial, personal and physical – into an understandable, integrated picture. He uses common sense terms, and entertaining real-life examples, to explain how to prepare for what should be one of the best periods of your life. – From Looking to Enjoy Life

This book emphasizes the fact that not since you were very young have you had a chance to think or act on your own behalf. Now you can do what works for you. Using easy-to-grasp illustrations of the focus of our lives during various stages, the author opens up new possibilities for the “new adult” to look at what retirement has to offer. I have recommended this book to several people and each has responded with thanks and enthusiasm. (My broker bought it for her mother-in-law.) Several report their identification with the personal stories the author includes. The book encourages one to think differently about one’s life, retired or not. – From Dee Monroe

And more reviews are available on Amazon

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Retirement and Marriage

I can tell you that that retirement magnifies the quality of a relationship. Retirement is a stress test for marriages; good relationships get better and tough ones get worse. Part of this is simply due to the amount of time spent together. Both spouses have concerns about how they will spend their time. Moving beyond work obviously impacts a person’s daily schedule; use of time was taken for granted due to structured commitments, now everything is a decision. This is great for most, when we are working most of us look forward to the day when our schedule will be our own. Many may find this reliance on themselves for structure to be worrisome many. The spouse who has run the home may feel intruded upon by a career driven partner at home and the work oriented spouse may have limited experience with enjoyable non-work activities.

Problems can also arise for a couple when changes in personal priorities shift from being career driven to being self driven. This may feel to the person their spouse that their partner is becoming selfish. In some ways they are. Focus on what a person wants helps them to find direction or purpose in life, while it also helps to shine a light on what is meaningful. This can create a balance between what the person wants and what is important to them, like their spouse. It is one reason why so many people entering retirement find that they want to have both purpose and meaning in their life.

Most partners in a marriage are initially challenged by the sheer force of the shakeup experienced by such a major life change. This is not marriage specific; a person’s priorities change dramatically as they move beyond work and they naturally re-examine all parts of their life. My advice to couples who are preparing for or just entering retirement is to recognize that many thoughts and feelings will surface during this major change in how they live their lives. It takes about six to 18 months to settle into this new way of life. Be prepared to talk with each other about what is not working, and more importantly, what is working. It takes time to adjust, use it well.

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Three Personal Qualities for Retiring Well

I am frequently asked ‘what are the qualities that are consistent among people who retire well?’  I have been pondering the answer to this question.   As I reviewed the interviews I conducted for my book and my conversations with my clients, I found that three qualities stood out.  They are Competence, Confidence and Courage, the 3 Qualities for Retiring Well.

The 3Cs:

1.       Competence – This comes from a combination of talent, skill and experience, but it does not stop there.  It is made fresh through constant learning.  The past informs us, the present teaches us and the future is what we make of it.

2.       Confidence – This uses competence as the foundation for making decisions.  It is confidence that allows a person to make the best choices, not just the easiest choices.

3.       Courage – This allows us to take positive action when there is no certainty.  It is the fuel of discovery and resilience.  Retirement is filled with challenges and opportunities; courage allows us to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities.

Bill Roiter 

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Retirement 2009: Are You Afraid of Losing or Are You Hoping to Win?

The fear of losing is often greater than the desire to win.  Protecting what we have is a powerful human instinct, so powerful that it can keep us from what we really want.  Las Vegas reduces the fear of losing by making winning so attractive; no bells go off in the casino when someone loses, only when they win.

The news today is awash with dramatic stories of loss.  People are losing their jobs and retirement savings are sinking.  We are uncertain of what to do given the loss of our retirement security.  What can we do to protect ourselves as our finances fall?  The consensus is that you should hunker down, stay alert and wait for the eventual recovery.  All good advice.

I would add that you should also feel hopeful.  Hope is a well used word nowadays and for good reason.  It connotes a basic optimism that we need to keep us going.  Hope allows us to look at today’s realties and to understand what we can do to improve our situation.  Fear can stop us by overwhelming the hope we have as we worry about losing what we have.  We guarantee loss when we do not try to improve.  The only way to win is to plan and to act.

Before you buy your plane ticket to Las Vegas to win, consider that positive action does not always mean doing something; action can be as simple as waiting for the economy to recover.  How you act, what you do or not do, is best managed by your plan for getting what you want.  Take action based on what you want and not on what you fear.  It’s better to walk toward what you want than to run away from what scares you.  Action based on fear is easily swayed by unreliable emotions and impulses.  Take a cue from other successful people and base your actions on what you want, what is meaningful and what will work.  Remember what Mark Twain said: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear–not absence of fear.”

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Hope for the Future

Today, January 20, 2009, is Inauguration Day and the world seems different. The weather, the economy, the world remain the same yet most people feel something rarely felt during the previous year – we feel hopeful.
Hope, the belief that better times are coming, has been in short supply in this country. I expect that hard core cynics are resisting this opportunity to believe in the future, but they are clearly in today’s minority. To be hopeful, we free up our thinking and become optimists. It is a happy example of how attitude can trump reality.
It will be up to President Obama to lead us and up to us to do what we can to harness this impermanent feeling of hope and turn it into a reality.
So what does this have to do with your retirement? Notice how you feel today. There are not many times when we can feel a pure emotion like hope. Note how it feels today so you can recall it in the future. We can all use as many positive experiences as we can get, and we enhance our enjoyment of them when we recognize them as they occur.

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The Psychological Impact of the Market Collapse

When the Trust is Gone

We try to stay positive, to look toward the future; but the news gets worse each day and then worse again the next day.  It is clear that the financial news impacts us all, even if we try to ignore it.  We are getting used to this new norm of bad news and growing financial jeopardy.

How do most people respond to this situation and what can we do to improve it?

As a unique individual, you are likely to respond to this financial crisis as you have responded during other times of crisis.   The range of response ranges from despair to acceptance to resilience.  Despair worsens an already difficult situation while resilience looks for ways to bounce back, to improve your own well-being.

In general, we cannot maintain a crisis state of mind for more than about six to eight weeks.  What was once critical becomes the expected norm.  Our minds begin to accept the new norm and looks for ways to live with this new reality.  The economy grabbed our attention in early September when the government seized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  We began to realize that this was no simple down cycle.  That makes it about 15 weeks since we entered this mess.   We are well passed the crisis stage even if we peg its start in October.

As a group we have become more somber, anxious and less secure.  We are looking for ways to stabilize our situations despite the economy’s behavior.  We will focus more on what we can control and worry more about what we cannot control.

We no longer trust our major institutions, including government, banks, investment professionals and big business, which we have looked to for leadership and security.  We are looking for guidance and support from our family and friends, and from our local communities and religious groups.  Who else can you trust?

This means that we are becoming less spontaneous, quieter, and focusing on more inward pursuits while looking for safe harbors during this storm.  We will have fewer parties; be more conservative in our behavior; look to ourselves, our families and our friends for mutual support; and we will reengage with simpler and sometimes more spiritual activities.  We will see an upswing in simpler food, watching movies at home, less vibrant clothes and an appreciation for what we have rather than what we want.  Showiness will be discouraged.  We are looking for our lost security and comfort.

How has the market’s collapse impacted you?

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