It isn’t easy to retire, just ask Brett Favre and the Packers

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Laura-BiskupicOf all the lessons in gracious conduct including painful mistakes and sweet amends that the Packers and Brett Favre taught us during these past few years, one of the most obvious is this: it’s really difficult to retire.

Once viewed as the golden years, a time for sunset walks, daily golf games and afternoon tea, retirement for today’s American worker can be fraught with peril.

As appealing as it may seem when the alarm clock goes off in the pre-dawn hours and you haven’t slept well due to work stress, retirement can cause even more anxiety, especially if it hasn’t been well-planned.

The first question you need to ask yourself before you consider retiring is, what do you intend to do with your time? Many people wrap their whole identity in their job title, and waste time floundering for the first few years of their retirement because they have nothing to do. Take some time to envision your own perfect retirement. Go beyond the leisurely morning coffee and stress-free Sunday nights. Ask yourself how you will fill each day. Will you pursue a hobby? Volunteer? Travel? Consult?

These questions lead us to the second question you should ask yourself: Will my money last through my whole retirement. Actuarial tables only tell part of the story.  You can’t know how long you’ll live or what your quality of life will be, but you can make an educated guess and protect yourself. See an advisor with a fiduciary responsibility and set up a plan.

Will you need a long term care policy? Most likely you will, but the effectiveness of these plans vary wildly and you don’t want a salesperson who is looking for a commission to guide your research.

Would an annuity make sense? You may want to purchase a fixed annuity as a portion of your retirement plan, but, again, these products are complicated, nuanced and they can be expensive. Check with an independent, licensed professional before you purchase an annuity.

Some people enjoy the comfort of a formal financial plan, while others may find them too expensive and prefer simply to meet with an advisor to set up a budget, a yearly withdrawal plan and a retirement time horizon. In either case, you should still evaluate your plan annually and meet with an advisor at least once a year because changes that occur during the course of a lifetime can have a dramatic effect on any retirement plan.

We’ll be in the stands at Lambeau next season, cheering as the name Favre takes its rightful place along such other Packer greats as Bart Starr, Willie Davis, Curly Lambeau and Tony Canadeo, all of whom who eventually successfully negotiated fulfilling post-football lives.

Still, ask any NFL retiree and he’ll tell you, it’s not easy to leave a job you love.