​ Most people are in the last few weeks of work ...
Most people are in the last few weeks of work for the year. Some people have even reached retirement, and won’t be going back to work next year at all. After a big year of work, when we’re looking forward to some time off, it’s hard to imagine being bored of this. But after a few weeks, for many people our time off reaches a point of diminishing returns. We don’t enjoy our fourth week off as much as we enjoyed the first week off. Understanding this effect can help us understand one of the biggest factors that reduces our enjoyment of our life; the hedonic treadmill.
The hedonic treadmill refers to our natural tendency, as human beings, to become acclimatized to certain things in our life, and after a period of time take them for granted. This concept is usually applied to financial planning when we look at how we spend our money. For example, spending a lot of money on a brand new car might make us happy in the short term, but within a couple of months we think of it just as how we get from A to B, and so the new car we were so excited to buy doesn’t tend to make us happier over the long term.

When it comes to retirement planning, this same concept applies to time, specifically to our leisure time in this case. While we are working full time, we imagine that we would never get sick of waking up every day and being able to do whatever we felt like. However, after a while of this, we get accustomed to this freedom and start to take it for granted. In addition to this, we may actually find that we struggle to find ways to fill this amount of time, and become bored or disengaged.

So what can we do about this?

There are a number of different ways to allow for this tendency:
  • Accept it! Sometimes the easiest way to counteract our natural biases is not to actually try to fight them. We can try to just accept that not all of our retirement will be as fun and exciting as what we might have imagined.
  • Consider whether you might prefer a different type of retirement. There are many different ‘types’ of retirement that involve spreading out our leisure time over our life, rather than using it in one big block. This is something I’ve written about previously in more detail check this.
  • Think about ways to spend some of our available time in retirement, for example by helping out with family members, or volunteering. This may help us to better appreciate the remaining leisure time.

As always, there are no right or wrong answers here. It’s just another one of the things that we tend to talk to our clients about. When it comes to retirement planning, it’s not just the financial side of things that can cause problems. Spending some time thinking and talking about the emotional aspects can also help with making sure our client’s retirement years are some of the most enjoyable of their life.

Written by Dallas Davison.
Published by Dallas Davison. December 3, 2017