Monthly Archives: April 2015

In Denial About Money?

Could you be in denial about money? An article by the APA(1) has identified the warning signs if you are. They begin with the concept that, “money is stressful.” This was the result of an annual survey asking people their top source of stress. Of course, it’s natural to try to avoid stress especially if it’s painful in some way. That’s where we get into trouble because avoiding financial issues only tends to worsen them.

Here are the warning signs they mention:

a. You try to put money and finances out of your mind

b. You avoid talking about money

c. You avoid opening bank or credit card statements

d. You don’t know what your credit score is

e. You don’t know your net worth.

We all have these behaviors to some extent and some of them keep changing like d and e. But, as anything in psychology, it’s the degree or severity of these behaviors that make it significant. I’m a psychotherapist and prior stockbroker, so I understand that your relationship with money is often a result of past experiences and future expectations.

When I say relationship with money, I mean your individual perception of its importance and what emotions come with that perception. For example, many people who lost money in the crash of 1929, never invested in the stock market the rest of their lives. This past experience created anxiety and distrust of the markets and clouded their future expectations. This generation had a distrustful relationship with money as a result of being traumatized with sudden and unpredictable losses. The emotional memory of this trauma was never forgotten.

Women also have a different relationship with money. Women don’t view money as an end result, but as a means to get somewhere. Women also do not discuss finance and business in their personal relationships as much as men. Thats because their priorities are different. However, that is different than consciously avoiding talking about money which is a form of denial.

If you feel the warning signs pertain to you, they recommend a few steps like keeping track of your income and spending or make a budget. Establish a spending plan of your priorities. Set up automatic saving like a 401k or IRA. Use software programs to assist you with the above.

Of course, everyone should have a budget with priorities and it’s easy to find a template on the internet if you are just getting started. Automatic savings are set up at your work. They do not suggest any specific software. In addition, I would certainly add, 1. Get more financial education-read and take classes. 2. Consult a financial pro before investing 3. Consider using cash vis-a-vis credit cards to reduce spending. 4. Understand your personal relationship with money especially your past traumas and risk tolerance 5. Join an investment club or start one of your own 6. Consider downsizing your lifestyle 7. Consider occupational re-training to increase your income. 8. Assess you social security to determined future income 9. Be willing to work into retirement if necessary. In other words, make learning about money and investing an essential and fun priority. L. Johnson

AmericanPsychological Assoc., Feb 2015. ‘Face the numbers: Moving beyond financial denial.’ Retrieved on 4-22-2015 from: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/financial-avoidance.aspx

WHAT’S YOUR RETIREMENT STYLE

What’s your retirement style is important to understand for future planning. There is an interesting study by the APA(1) that examines how retirement is approached and how the experience is different for men and women. How people approach retirement was studied with six different styles emerging.

CONTINUERS who stay with existing skills and interests
ADVENTURES who start something entirely new
SEARCHERS who try new out new things using trail and error
EASY GILDERS who enjoy going from day to day without a plan
INVOLVED SPECTATORS who care, but engage less
RETREATERS who socially disconnect

In evaluating the above styles, I’m retired 7 years and I have experience each one of these variations. So, I don’t believe you get stuck in any one style. The two above styles that produce the most stress are the Easy Gilders and the Retreaters. The problem with easy gilding is that once you get bored or feel too isolated, you have no plan to grow. Some people then get anxious and depressed. The Retreating style is common to some extent since we are out of the working world. However, too much retreating socially also leads to isolation and depression.

It’s no surprise that they found the happiest retired folks were involved in a variety of activities. I always felt the best experience of life is through doing, not watching, as this confirms. That’s why I strongly recommend writing a retirement plan with a ton of interesting options for yourself. I can only recommend coping styles that involve social engagement because that is so important after work contacts diminish. Social engagement is considered vital for a stimulating and rewarding retirement.

The second half of the study focused on the different retirement experience for husbands and wives who retire at different times. They found that recent retired women are more depressed when compared to the not yet retired or continually retired. This is even more pronounced if the husband is still at work. Of course, if you are recently retired, then you are starting your adjustment to your new lifestyle. During this adjustment period it’s common to experience mixed emotions.

They also found the recently retired men have more conflict with their partner compared to working men. This becomes even more pronounced if their wife is still working. If the men decide to become re-employed, their morale is higher with less martial conflict. This is the same recent retirement adjustment and when they go back to work, the adjustment reaction stops.

What is the COMMON SENSE CONCLUSION here? First, this martial conflict or unhappiness is an indication of a stressful initial adjustment for both men and women. It’s not a mistake in your retirement. It is always difficult doing something new for the first time. Some retirement adjustments may take up to three years especially if you don’t have a plan. There are ways to anticipate your partner’s reaction and design a plan before it occurs. That’s because retirement adjustment occurs in phases.

Second, they note that women tend to become more depressed and men more conflictual or angry. I view this as a historical gender specific coping style. That is, it seems men and women are predetermined to respond in these ways when stressed. Once an adjustment is made, of course, your emotions become more stable and your return to your contort zone.

Third, if men are happier when re-employed, this may be the best retirement style for that group. It’s true that some people cannot adjust to retirement. Some people have found their passions in existing work to be so profound and satisfying, there is no desire to retire. This is the style of the Continuer above and many life long dedicated people fall into this category.

It is certainly helpful to have a guide or plan on past involvements to anticipate the future adjustments in retirement. If you take the time to develop a detailed retirement plan, then you can replace what you lost from work. This will dramatically cut down on your adjustment time and your emotion reactions. I hope this article helps you identify your retirement style, encourages you to develop a detailed plan based on past interests, and convinces you of the importance of social engagement in retirement.    L. Johnson   www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)American Psychological Association, 4-14-2005, “Thinking About Retirement? Time to Think About Your Psychological Portfolio.” Retrieved on 4-15-2015 from http://w ww. apa.org/research/action/retire.aspx

Meditate for Health and Saving

It may surprise some that you can meditate for health and savings. There are mountains of studies regarding the many health benefits of meditation. One study (1) that summarizes others breaks down the benefits into five categories. The first is stress reduction, which affects almost every system in our bodies. The sympathetic nervous system is calmed, which reduces the cortisol and adrenaline that are correlated with stress. Meditating facilitates relaxation for sleep or before a stressful event.

Transcendental Meditation also lowers the risk of heart disease and has been known to lower the incidence of strokes, heart attack, and death compared to non-meditators. The study reports that through T.M., heart disease can be lowered by nearly 50% and high blood pressure can be managed also. I know too many middle-aged people who are on hypertension medications, and fail to follow other healthful behaviors like exercise, sodium reduction, and meditation. TM is apparently the only meditation practice that has been proven to lower blood pressure and to get approval from the American Heart Association. Its benefits also help manage depression, in that mood becomes more stable, and also lowers anxiety.

The financial benefit of reduced medical expenses seems a little confusing at first. But, “Inpatient days decreased by more than 50% in every age category, children, young and older adults and out-patient visits were reduced by 47% to 69%. Surprisingly, admissions for benign and malignant tumors dropped 55%, heart disease by 87% and more than 30% for infectious diseases. (1)” Less doctor visits and medications simply means we save more money.

These figures are too meaningful to overlook and can apply especially well in retirement. In order to understand this, both inpatient and outpatient visits dropped because meditation reduces our response to pain. For us to see a doctor outside of our routine visits, we usually need to feel discomfort or distress. Tumors and infections tend to drop as a result of an improved immune response, while lower heart disease from deep relaxation is already documented. The conclusion is that stress and anxiety compound or even create health problems that we normally would not have.

Taking 15 to 20 minutes once or twice a day to meditate is an enjoyable period of calmness in a hectic day. I meditate in the morning for alertness and at night for relaxation. I go to the doctor so little, I’ve had no need for insurance for over 20 years.        L.J. www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)Garcia, M.(6-10-0213) “Five reasons transcendental meditation is good for your health” voxxi.com. Retrieved on 2-11-2014 from: voxxi.com/2013/06/10/transcendental-meditation-tm-good-for-health/