Are you emotionally prepared to handle retirement?

Fill in the blank: "When I retire, I hope to __________."

Many of us have grand ideas of trips we will take, groups or clubs we will join, home projects we will tackle or new hobbies we will take on. We look to retirement as a time to finally do all the things we've always hoped to do but never had the time to accomplish.

We spend time daydreaming of what retirement will be like, but you may be surprised to know that many of those nearing retirement fear they are not emotionally prepared. Emotional preparation for retirement is a mind-set, and while there are multiple aspects to consider, here are five important questions to ask yourself to help you emotionally prepare for this next phase of your life.

1. How am I going to fill up all the extra time I now have?

Going back to our daydreams of what we anticipate retirement to be and our goals to take great vacations or practice our golf swing, those nearing retirement may not fully grasp all of the additional time they'll have on their hands.

When you think in terms of a 40-plus-hour workweek in addition to commute time, getting ready for work each day, etc., you suddenly have a wealth of available time during retirement.

"More than half our clients hope to travel more during retirement, especially if their children or grandchildren are not nearby, so they can spend more time visiting family."

How do retirees prevent boredom? Many find volunteer projects or charitable endeavors to keep busy. Volunteer work can be very rewarding, and giving back will help fulfill the need to make a difference on a daily or weekly basis.

There are also a percentage of retirees who spend more time exercising or golfing on a regular basis. More than half our clients hope to travel more during retirement, especially if their children or grandchildren are not nearby, so they can spend more time visiting family.

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Retirees usually spend more time on hobbies, in general, whether it's gardening, working on projects around the house or taking on crafts.

There are many that actually go back to work on a part-time basis, not necessarily working in the field they left but instead trying their hand at a second career.

2. How will I maintain my lifestyle without receiving a regular paycheck?

One of the most frequent questions our clients ask is, "Do I have enough assets to retire or leave the workforce to last our entire lifetime without it negatively impacting our lifestyle?"

We help our clients overcome this worry by creating a personalized, holistic wealth plan. Having a plan can help you work toward your retirement goals so you can live your continued lifestyle or the lifestyle you wish to have.

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Many people in their 40s have an idea as to when they'd like to quit working, and they come to us to either confirm or refute their targeted retirement date. Oftentimes, we work with folks who are 10 to 15 years from retiring so we can help them prepare.

I recommend working with an experienced and knowledgeable financial professional who can help you quantify the answer to this question and help you gain comfort in your financial preparedness for retirement.

Protecting your retirement income
Protecting your retirement income   

This professional can help you determine how much you will need to pull out of a qualified retirement plan versus spending non-qualified assets, the timing of optimizing your Social Security benefits and annuity contracts, determining an appropriate asset spending rate and the transition from an accumulation phase to a distribution phase.

Reliance on a financial professional will help alleviate the burden of having to answer these questions yourself. One of the many benefits of the planning process is that your plan is continually reviewed and updated to reevaluate the reasonable time frame of your targeted retirement date.

3. My spouse and I are accustomed to having our independence during the day, so how can we prepare to be around one another full-time?

This question is one that many nearing retirement forget to consider. It's common to get into a routine, and part of that routine is the time that we spend away from family members. A major change in that time allocation is something to consider and prepare for.

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Keep in mind that, just as you adjusted to the time away from your family while at work, you will adjust to being around your family on a full-time basis. Many people find this transition to be positive but still enjoy independent hobbies or clubs.

4. How do I give up my career when I believe it partially defines me?

Most people are identified by their career. It's who they are. When you leave the workforce, you are giving up that aspect of your identity. For example, someone who is a financial planner becomes known as the "numbers guy," and when he retires, he leaves that identity behind.

Those who become accustomed to spending hours at the office may find it difficult to turn off their work-mode switch and get used to a more laid-back or relaxing lifestyle. Over time, they may start to enjoy having more free time and find retirement a nice change from the day-to-day stress they experienced in the workforce.

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5. Will I miss the social aspect of being around people all day at work?

If you're somewhat of a social butterfly, the idea of not having constant interaction with others may be scary; if you're a homebody, however, you may be looking forward to this transition. If you're the former, not the latter, we recommend giving yourself time to adjust.

Those who really enjoy the social aspect of working should consider joining groups or clubs so you can still find social interaction during your retirement. On the flipside, others end up enjoying the adjustment of not being around so many people and having more time to relax.

Those who are emotionally prepared for retirement have either considered these factors or, through the planning process, are able to have many of these questions proactively addressed. For those who may be lacking emotional preparedness, we recommend working with an advisor to help you prepare for retirement so you can live your retirement years by design—not by default.

—By Ron Carson, founder and CEO of Carson Wealth Management Group