Two current phenomena simultaneously make a book such as So You Think You Are Ready to Retire? by retirement consultant Barry LaValley of Nanaimo, B.C. particularly timely.

The first is simple demographics: the initial wave of the baby boomers either have just retired or are thinking seriously about doing so. In anticipation of the transition by millions of people from work to leisure, we have seen a plethora of books on how to “retire right.” In most instances, these books suggest making the best of whatever financial resources an individual has available to fund his or her retirement.

The second phenomenon actually is a progression from the first: we now realize that while having sufficient income in retirement always will be important, it often is the emotional issues accompanying retirement that make the experience either a good or not so good one. In this book, LaValley shares his considerable personal insights into the psychology of retirement, gained through 35 years of working with financial advisors and investors across the globe. A self-confessed “student of the business,” LaValley complements his observations with selected research from academics. A number of key themes emerge:

Retirement isn’t what it used to be. In previous generations, people traditionally retired to the front porch of their home or the front nine of their golf course to spend the next five to seven years doing what they had planned to do in retirement – until declining health became a bigger issue than an increasing golf handicap. Today, however, many people are choosing to continue to work into their 70s and beyond. LaValley labels this stage our “second life” and suggests that most of us are significantly unprepared for extended lifespans.

Our work defines us. One of the questions people often ask when meeting someone for the first time is: “What do you do for a living?” That’s because most of us are defined by our career choices, and our job typically enables others to assess our economic status quickly, our level of education, our social network and whether we might be interesting to engage in conversation. Given the extent to which our lives have centred on our work, how well prepared are most of us to cope with the loss of that status?

How health matters. Understanding aging allows us to align our lifestyle choices and retirement expectations better with the inevitable physical realities. As a result, our stress is reduced, which improves our outlook and, often, extends our longevity.

Relationships change. The old joke about the wife complaining that all she got out of her husband’s retirement was “twice as much of him and half as much income” unfortunately rings true in many situations. Adapting to being with a spouse 24/7 can be challenging. In addition, social networks often are an extension of the workplace. When that network no longer is available, social opportunities may fade away.

Add in the inevitable passing of longtime friends and it is easy to see how satisfying social interaction after retirement can decline gradually and become difficult to reverse.

While an initial read of this book’s entire contents would be worthwhile, its 30 chapters (spread across eight sections) makes it easy to absorb in small bites. Alternatively, you may want to zero in on topics of specific interest, given that individual priorities change through the course of a long retirement. Each chapter concludes with at least one “fill in the blank” exercise to help to stimulate and organize your thinking.

Although this book is aimed at consumers, it also provides a process for advisors to engage in important retirement conversations with their clients on topics other than financial matters. The book would make a great gift, as well as being a valuable guide.

So You Think You Are Ready to Retire?
by Barry LaValley,;
270 pages,
*** 1/2

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