Remember Y2K? When the year 2000 was approaching and computer experts realized that most software was written with the last two digits representing the year as opposed to all four digits, making 2000 indistinguishable from 1900?
They feared computers would behave as if the year had changed from 1999 to 1900, and there was no way to predict the possible consequences. This left some doomsayers warning that it could mean the end of civilization as we know it, while other experts expressed more targeted concerns with the power grid, running water, traffic lights, airports and banking systems.
As a result, computer programmers were tasked with feverishly updating software and the general public was left scurrying to do everything from buying extra food, water and supplies to building personal bunkers and basement safe havens.
The event created what is referred to as collective anxiety: A situation where a large group of people grow in size and concern as the circumstances they fear rapidly approaches.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t buy into the whole “End of the world” thing. I just didn’t care and assumed everything would be okay. I didn’t buy any extra food, water, batteries or candles. I figured it was a giant waste of time and money… and if there was a problem, it could easily be resolved. As it turned out, that thought process and decision ended up costing me much more than I would like to admit and unfortunately, something eerily similar is happening to more and more people as they approach retirement.
You see, the gravity of the situation didn’t hit me until it was directly upon us. It wasn’t until 11 o’clock on New Year’s Eve that I realized I was the only one without a plan for what was about to happen. Staring down the gun barrel of not being able to shower, drink clean water and see in the darkness, I left the party I was at and quickly filled up my bath tub with water and ran to the local gas station (only place open) to purchase some water, a flashlight, batteries and some extremely unhealthy food choices which cost a fortune.
My last minute planning caused stress and had me running in circles instead of enjoying my time and the event I was at. The very same thing is happening to people as they reach retirement. They see it coming but it’s not until they actually get there that they flip-out. They are finally coming face-to-face with the idea of no longer having a work identity, a paycheck, an automatic connection to others or sense of accountability… and it’s got clients stressed and running in multiple directions.
For years retirement has been this distant thing that will eventually happen, and they’ve been told that everything will be okay if they have the right amount of money and asset allocation. Then they start hearing the horror stories about spending every waking moment with their spouse, being stuck watching the grand kids five days a week, gaining weight, feeling depressed, drinking or smoking more, losing touch with friends, or having medical complications. Their minds wander and the joy they hoped to experience in retirement is replaced by fear and worry, leaving them paralyzed or running to the closest place open for a quick fix.