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Do You Need a Retirement Coach?

Dougal Waters | Digital Vision | Getty Images

The Internet is packed with calculators to help people sock away enough money to sustain them in retirement, but there's no mathematical formula to help with the intangibles required for a successful retirement.

You may be dutifully maxing out your 401(k) to build a suitable nest egg, but have you thought about how you will fill your days and years after leaving a long career or active worklife? Do you wonder where you will live, how you will feel about losing touch with work friends and associates, how you will find meaning in your life?

These are areas where a retirement coach can help. While a financial advisor can guide you in your investing and saving choices, a retirement coach can help you sort through the complex, often emotional, choices facing many who are newly or about to be retired. Your financial preparedness and feelings about money may well figure into the equation.

"I always have a hard time with the word retirement. … It's really more about reinvention," said Roberta Taylor, a Boston-area psychotherapist and board-certified coach focused on the retirement transition and co-author of "The Couple's Retirement Puzzle, which aims to help couples work through decisions together.

People seeking the help of coaches include those who haven't planned, according to Taylor. "They say, 'I'm retiring next year, and I don't have a clue what I'm going to do,' " she said.

Others who are already retired and thought it would be wonderful to have free time and play golf, she added, "realize, usually in a very short time, that it's not enough and they feel disconnected from people."

(Read More: How to Avoid Retirement Portfolio Panic)

Retirees often struggle after losing their title and status, Taylor said, recalling one client who told her he was struggling to find relevance.

The Life Planning Network, a group of professionals and organizations "dedicated to helping people navigate the second half of life," recommends a number of resources on its website, including Taylor's book.

"Whatever your situation, the second half of life is a new and distinct life stage that requires careful planning and preparation," the group says on its website, noting that today's 50-year-olds generally have half their adult lives ahead of them.

Retirement planning is especially an issue now, as waves of baby boomers reaching 65 don't necessarily have models for having a long, active and engaged life after ending their careers, said Joanne Hadlock, a Boston-area vocational psychologist and transitions coach who contributed to the network's book, "Live Smart After 50!"

"It's a whole new chapter for many individuals," Hadlock said, adding that today's retirees have the blessing and the curse of choice.

Adjustment to life after career depends on a person's social circle, use of skills, identity and interests, she said, and many baby boomers see an opportunity to fulfill their youthful social consciousness via a focus on volunteering.

People tend to think of retirement planning in terms of financial preparedness, but relationships are important, too, Hadlock said. If a client is lonely or isolated, she tries to help them see how important it is to develop or revitalize a social circle.

While retirement coaches aren't necessarily financial advisors, money plays a role, both from emotionally and practically, she said. Money or the lack of it can affect where retirees will live, whether they will need to work part-time and which activities they will pursue.

If younger clients expect to inherit something, it affects the risks they will take, Hadlock said. She recommends that clients who need guidance seek advice from an expert in that area.

Taylor also recommends that clients work with a financial advisor.

"I try to help people understand their relationship with money" and to know how much they will need, she said, adding that even the financially savvy and affluent fear poverty. "A lot of people haven't saved enough. A lot of people did save and then lost a lot of money, so they're not where they thought they were going to be because of the recession."

Location also is a big issue.

"That's huge because we're such a mobile society," Taylor said. Women might want to move near their grandchildren, "which often is not a good choice," because their grown children may relocate at some point. She cited the example of a woman who went to another state to be near her children and was having a hard time because she had left her friends and didn't know anyone.

"It's really important to kind of think about the global view of the decision that you're making, and with a couple, they often have a lot of challenges around where to live," Taylor said.

People may choose a place based on cost of living, interests, climate, relationships or potential caretaking choices.

When deciding where to live, Hadlock said, people need to ask themselves a question, one that sounds like it may apply to other post-career choices as well: "When you wake up in the morning, what do you really want?"

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