How Healthy is Your Psychological Portfolio?

Nancy Schlossberg psychological portfolio
Nancy K. Schlossberg September 11, 2017

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Is your self-worth dependent on your job, your title or your paycheck?

If so, what will happen when you retire and all of those disappear?

Nancy K. Schlossberg, author of Too Young to Be Old: Love, Learn, Work, and Play as You Age, focuses on the transition to retirement, by focusing on the importance of having a healthy psychological portfolio for retirement. Nancy discusses the mental preparation new retirees should do in order to find balance in their life.

She also encourages open communication with life partners and family about your finances. Listen to learn how you can improve your financial conversations.

Don’t ignore your financial statements!

Are you overwhelmed when you open your financial statements and need help understanding the numbers? Doug offers a brief guide to understanding your financial statements.

The biggest mistake an investor can make is not making an effort to understand what is going on. Even if you just look at the front page of your statement, learn what numbers are the most important to look at (hint: it may not be the total net worth).

If you would like a more depth resource for understanding your financial statements, watch this  video.

To learn more about Nancy K. Schlossberg, visit her

If you’re not already receiving updates on new episodes, sign up now, and as a special bonus, receive Doug’s free ebook The Retirement Planning Book.

Watch How Healthy is Your Psychological Portfolio? on YouTube.

Read the Transcript

Interview With Nancy K. Schlossberg.

“I have found that when people have no purpose and they are floundering, they can get very depressed. The identity and the purpose are related to each other,” says Nancy K. Schlossberg, author, speaker, and life transition guru. Discover how identity and purpose are connected, as well as the three things that you should consider before retirement.

Douglas Goldstein: I'm very excited to have on The Goldstein on Gelt Show, Professor Nancy K. Schlossberg. She has written about 10 books related to retirement and aging, and her newest book, called Too Young to Be Old, is about transitions. It was highlighted recently in Money magazine. Nancy, it's a real pleasure to have you on.

Nancy K. Schlossberg: I'm delighted to be on.

Douglas Goldstein: You talk in your book about many things, and I want to focus today on retirement.

I want to focus on the transition to retirement. What are some of the things that people who are getting close to retirement need to worry about or plan in order to have a successful retirement?

What You Need to Be Aware of before and during Your Retirement

Nancy K. Schlossberg: I’m glad you asked. Let me just give you an incident. I was interviewing a CFO of a Fortune 100 company and he said very dramatically, “Retirement is hollow.”

Then he hit the table with his fist. He said, “This is solid; retirement isn't.” Here was a man whose pension was $1 million, with a lot of other things, and yet to him, retirement was hollow.

He had not even thought about retirement. He had thought, “Well, I've got enough money to retire. The organization still has an office for me. I can still use their secretary.”

Retirement is nothing to think about in advance, except he realized after the fact, he should have thought about it.

Douglas Goldstein: Wow. What did it feel like? Let's go to the bad side. What did he mean by, it’s hollow?

Nancy K. Schlossberg: I asked myself, what does that mean? He was used to having a lot of influence, a lot of power; an established place in the world.

Although he still had a lot of money, his identity was changing, his psychological portfolio was in flux. I talk a lot about that.

You talk about financial portfolios and I talk about your psychological portfolio, and that's the thing you need to be aware of before and during your retirement.

Douglas Goldstein: All right, let's follow this metaphor that you're describing. When I design a portfolio, the most critical factors that I look into is the asset allocation model and it's really what percentage of the portfolio can be risky and what percentage has to be safer.

How does that play out in the concept of a psychological portfolio when someone is planning for a mentally secure retirement?

The Three Things That Are Important When You’re Planning for Retirement

Nancy K. Schlossberg: You look at, what are the three things that are the most important? One is your identity; who you are. When I was working as a professor, it was very simple.

I could say I'm a professor. Then, when you retire, how do you identify yourself? Who are you? You were a professor, but that's the past. The identity is very critical.

Who are you? Who are you becoming? And that is tied to the second part, a major part of your portfolio; purpose.

When you worked, whether you were a roofer or a banker or an artist or a professor or a reporter, aside, in addition to your identity, you had a reason to get up in the morning.

You had someplace to go, and you had something to do. You had a purpose. Sometimes you didn’t like your purpose, but you had a purpose.

I have found that when people have no purpose and they are floundering, they can get very depressed. The identity and the purpose are related to each other.

I'll give you another example. A reporter from a major newspaper in the United States was the happiest person I ever met when he retired, because the day he retired, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.

He had set up his garage as an art studio, and he was becoming a serious painter. He was not willing to call himself a painter until he had an art show, which he did a year later, but he knew exactly what he wanted to do.

He had a purpose, he had an identity.

However, most people aren't quite as clear; they're sort of floundering. I certainly was floundering when a reporter called me about a project I had been working on in Maryland about two weeks after I retired, and he said, “How should I identify you?”

I didn't know what to say. I could not get the words out of my mouth. “I'm retired.”

Douglas Goldstein: Nancy, you started by telling us about the three important things and you’ve listed two so far.

You said that when you retire, you have to figure out who you are, what your identity is, and then you said you've got to figure out what your purpose is; that's number two. Tell me what number three is.

Nancy K. Schlossberg: Number three is that your relationships are in a jumble, sometimes, for example, your work relationships.

I still have a few close friends from the University of Maryland, but in general I don't see the people anymore that I interacted with every day, that I had coffee with, that I shared, that I was on the committees with. I don't see them.

That changed, your whole network changes. Now, let's take family. One woman said to me, “Now that I'm retired, what do I do? My daughter expects me to fly up to Wisconsin and babysit so they can go on vacation, but she doesn't just do it once a year. She wants to do it two or three times. Do I have to do that? I don't want to do that, but I feel guilty all the time.”

What happens when you're tired and people expect different things of you?

Douglas Goldstein: I want to dive into this expectation as it relates to kids. One of the things that I see in my day job as a financial adviser is a lot of times, the people who are retired have grownup kids who are experiencing financial difficulties.

The grownup kids expect some financial help from their retired parents, and it gets to be difficult.

You've talked about figuring out your relationships and it can be very tense because you feel, “Listen, I do have a lot of money because I've been saving for my whole life, but I don't feel comfortable enough to share that with the next generation yet. Can't they just wait?” How should people deal with that?

Retirement, You and Your Adult Children

Nancy K. Schlossberg: That's very interesting. If you have money, one of the ways that you can help out is paying for kids’ education, your grandchildren's education, or their after-school activities. There are many ways that you could do it, but there is the expectation that the grandparents or the parents will help, and clearly that's there.

Now, what do you do about it? You have to set boundaries and you have to have what I call an expectation exchange. What do you expect us to do? What do you need? Then get it clarified.

Douglas Goldstein: Is that a conversation, this expectation exchange?

Nancy K. Schlossberg: Yes. It's a conversation. In my own instance, there have been times when I’ve gifted my kids’ money, when I've paid for my grandkids parts of their education. There are other times when I don't.

My son is an entrepreneur, a serial entrepreneur, and when he's doing very well I don't need to do that. It depends on how you feel about money, how they feel about money, but it's all about relationship. How open are you with your adult children?

Douglas Goldstein: I think it's about the communication that you have with them. In other words, that ability to communicate with your adult children is something that people have to begin working on when they're much younger because it must be very difficult if you haven't communicated about money with people.

And I've certainly seen a lot of older people who are not used to sharing their money. They are not used to discussing it with people, and all of a sudden you say, “Now you got to talk to your kids about it.” And they don't even have a common vocabulary.

Nancy K. Schlossberg: And then to complicate the relationship part of the portfolio, let's suppose you're married, or you live in a partnership, or you live with somebody.

This was very funny because I was giving a speech at Georgia State right after I retired. My husband was doing a consultation at Georgia State. We were there together. He came over to hear my speech, and during the Q&A somebody said, “How is it now that you've retired?” I said, “It's horrible.” And I burst out laughing.

My husband was in the front row and I said, “What really startles me is totally unexpected.” I have always worked, and then suddenly I'm retired and my husband says, “What, when are you leaving? When are you coming back? When will I see you again?” And it was like I had a supervisor. Really, I didn't know how to deal with that.

We dealt with it with humor, but it took me a while to get used to another person to whom I had to report. I eventually shifted and didn't see it as I have to report, but I want to report.

Douglas Goldstein: It's a relationship and you're in it together. You have someone to talk to. I had a quite elderly couple in my office once, and they were very wealthy, and the husband was still working.

I said, “You don't have to continue working. You’ve got plenty of money for the rest of your life.” And his wife, she slammed her hand on the table and she said, “Doug, I married him for better or for worse, but not for lunch.”

She wanted him out of the house, but it's true. It's not just the money, which is just one aspect of it. It's the relationships as well. Nancy, I'm enjoying this conversation but unfortunately we are just about out of time.

I know that you have written about this extensively, and you teach about this. In the last few seconds, tell me, how can people follow you and follow your work?

Nancy K. Schlossberg: I have a website: and my books are listed there as well as the different speeches that I've given.

I don't mind people e-mailing me at and I'm on Facebook too, but I'm just getting used to being on Facebook and Twitter.

The best way is email or to visit my website. I've really enjoyed this and I appreciate your interviewing me. I know about you and your program, and this is very nice.

Douglas Goldstein: Nancy, K. Schlossberg, thanks so much for taking the time.

Nancy K. Schlossberg: Thank you so much, Doug. Bye.

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