Expectations in Retirement

PUBLISHED Nov 9, 2022, 10:43:11 PM        SHARE

imgFiPhysician Blog

Is the key to Retirement lower expectations?

We expect a lot out of Retirement. What if the key to a successful retirement is to lower our expectations?

After all, we will spend a third or more of our life in Retirement. After all that hard work, should we not expect some happiness or at least fun?

If you want happiness in Retirement, let me tell you why the key to retirement happiness is to lower your expectations.

Expectations lead to Unhappiness

What are expectations?

If expectations are the certitude that something positive or negative will happen, we set ourselves up for a bumpy ride.

We certainly can expect the sun to rise tomorrow and plan for our eventual demise. Still, these expectations are based upon natural phenomena that all can expect in certitude.

Yes, eventually, the sun won’t rise, and eventually (in the infinite multiverse), well, I’m not going to speculate if technology will prevent the loss of consciousness from a physical form when life ends, but you either think they are risen, or you don’t (which is the same thing logically as persistent consciousness minus the physical form).

Aside from these assured conclusions based upon natural laws (that most may agree with), it is best to abandon expectations for your Retirement.

Don’t get me wrong; you still need to cling to whatever form of logic you decide is best for you. Just because you don’t expect things doesn’t mean that you can decide the chance of the sun (or you!) rising tomorrow is 50/50. There are infinitely good chances that the sun will rise tomorrow, and if you are healthy today, most tomorrows, you will wake up healthy as well. Don’t abandon logic and usually bet the odds.

But expectations in Retirement lead to Unhappiness. Both when fulfilled and when unfulfilled.

Fulfilled Expectations Are Not Happiness

What? If I don’t get what I want (or if I do!), either way, if I expect an outcome my happiness is diminished?

And that is why it suits you to lower your retirement expectations.

If you get what you expect, gratitude decreases.

If you don’t get what you expect, you get gratuitous pain.

Let’s look at both.

Gratuitous Pain in Retirement

The concept of “gratuitous pain” leaped from the pages of Happiness Is A Serious Problem. [sponsored link]

The author gives the example of waking up with a mass somewhere on your body. You see your doctor and then wait a month to get the consultation, biopsy, and pathology results.

The day your path comes back benign, you feel relief. It might be one of the happiest days of your life!

But what physically is different between the day you get the results and the day before when you had spent a frustrating month waiting for the system to churn you through?

You spent a month of anxious dread expecting the worst. Only when you get the result do you feel relief. But what happened to that mass that day? Did it somehow change, or did your thinking about it change?

You thought yourself into gratuitous pain by feeling the mass and then seeking medical attention (with all the subsequent worries attached). The mass didn’t cause the problems; your expectations of the mass did.

Nothing in your health changed overnight, yet you are suddenly happy. Or, perhaps, you made yourself unhappy with the waiting, and then with the result (the solution of the expectation), you were happy that you were just as healthy as the day before you found the mass in the first place.

“But Ideally, we should awaken every day and be as happy about our good health as if we had just received the wonderful news that a lump was diagnosed as benign” ~Dennis Prager

So if your expectations are unfulfilled, you have caused yourself unnecessary (or gratuitous) pain. Interesting.

Even If Expectations are Met, There is Unhappiness

But the flip side leads to Unhappiness as well.

So if you have unfulfilled expectations, you are unhappy. But if you get what you expect, you might become less grateful.

Please stick with me for a moment because gratitude causes happiness, not the other way around. “All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy” is as it is italicized in Mr. Prager’s book.

He argues that nothing undermines gratitude as much as expectations do (mine). As for your health, are you only grateful when you no longer fear you might lose it or are you grateful for your health every day you wake up healthy?

As for the sun rising, does it make you happy or grateful that it will rise tomorrow? Probably neither, as you expect it to. But to truly be happy, you might consider gratitude when it rises. As simple as that. It is wonderful that it is, and we don’t even need to set expectations.

Perhaps harder to grasp is that the opposite must be true as well. High gratitude = increased happiness, so axiomatically low g = low h (what about low t? I’m not going down that retirement rabbit hole).

If many wonderful things you didn’t expect come your way, you might have a happy day! But, if you expect wonderful things to come your way and they don’t, well, your expectations set you up for Unhappiness.

I bet you are not convinced. So let me try another way to explain it.

Gratitude is Joy in Retirement

Brene Brown takes it a step further, stating: “…the difference between happiness and joy (is) the difference between a human emotion that’s connected to circumstances and a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practicing gratitude.”

Please don’t get caught up with Dr. Brown talking about Joy vs. Happiness (Prager points out that there is no good definition of happiness, and it is often best to attempt to reduce Unhappiness as a result). The main difference for Dr. Brown: Joy adds to happiness by ascribing a spiritual quality to joy provided by gratitude.

Listen, it is not the other way around. Joyful people are not grateful for their good results in life. Grateful people (who are grateful because they have low expectations) are joyful. Further, the daily practice of gratitude cultivated spiritually creates happiness in our life. Think about that for a second.

How to be Happy in Retirement

So, to be happy in Retirement, you can practice gratitude daily or reduce your expectations. How about that for a prescription for retirement happiness?

As to how to minimize expectations, Prager offers three suggestions:

  1. Do not fear that not having expectations leads to less success or even less optimism
  2. Acknowledge that expectations are actually harmful in your life
  3. Express gratitude for all the good already in your life

As for me, this smacks of a spiritual process. Lower fears, admit faults and have faith. Indeed, fear of scarcity is the thief of joy.

When you experience joy, you might be scared because you know it will not last, and your fear freezes your joy. It is a common human condition to wait for the other shoe to drop when things are going well.

We live in a culture of scarcity, and I’ve commented that my fear of scarcity scares me in Retirement.

Instead of scarcity and fear, find joy in the ordinary moments of your life. Express gratitude that they happen. You are grateful that ordinary moments of joy happen when you let go of your expectations and delight in the moment.

That spiritual pursuit interests me; let uncertainty guide me to faith (or trust in) gratitude provides joy.

“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.” This quote from Anne Lamott offers us uncertainty, vulnerability, and a lack of expectations.

We experience happiness when we remember that gratitude is a continuous spiritual practice. Be grateful for the unexpected moments of joy, and don’t fear (or expect) anything but what is. Seeking certainty is seeking scarcity, just as joy is being grateful for what is already in your life.

Pain in life comes from unfulfilled desires and expectations ~Buddhist Teaching

Posted in Retirement
Originally Posted in FiPhysician

Sound investments
don't happen alone

Find your crew, build teams, compete in VS MODE, and identify investment trends in our evergrowing investment ecosystem. You aren't on an island anymore, and our community is here to help you make informed decisions in a complex world.

More Reads
Procter & Gamble Stock: Recession Resistant Dividend Aristocrat

When volatility grips the stock market, as it has this past year, income investors should focus on quality dividend growth stocks.

Dividend Income Summary: Lanny’s October 2022 Summary

This is what dividend investing is all about! Investing in dividend stocks allows YOU to earn dividend income, the best passive income stream! Bias, you better believe it.

Questions To Ask Before Hiring a Financial Planner or Coach

You can make all the right money moves to set your business up for success, but sometimes, it may seem hard to do that without the right team behind you. Whether you’re planning a major pivot or just looking to grow, hiring a financial planner or coach can be a great way to support your business on its journey.

The Dollar Edges Higher

After selling off amid speculation that China’s Covid policy was going to ease, we expected the greenback to recover and consolidate ahead of Thursday’s CPI.

How do you Take a Side Business to Full Business?

Going from side-gig to full-time gig? Make sure you take care of some administration before you take the plunge.

10 Compelling ESG Stocks That Pay Dividends Now

In the world of investing, the goal is always to compound wealth as efficiently as possible. We think the best way to do that is to buy high-quality dividend stocks, reinvest the dividends, and stay the course over a number of years. However, investors can also infuse their own personal preferences or beliefs into their investing strategy, and still make great returns.

Market Musing 11-07-2022 - Please Vote

The US Markets are waiting on FOMC Rate Hike of 75 basis points on Wednesday. Will Chair Powell pivot on rate hikes before the end of year?

What are the Dividend Policies of the Top Utility Stocks

When an income investor researches utility stocks, the dividend policy is an important decision factor. Here are the dividend policies of the top utility stocks and what they say about the stock.

AMC Stock Forecast, Analysis, Price & News | Is AMC stock a buy

Based on the stock performance over the previous 8 years, AMC has traditionally increased by 80.5% during the following 52 weeks. Learn more!

Is Planet Fitness a Buy or Sell? PLNT target price

Based in Hampton, New Hampshire, Planet Fitness (NYSE:PLNT) is an American fitness facility franchisor and operator. Let's explore it!

The FED Strikes (back)

Stock Market Commentary

Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn, and the Stock Market

When I went to med school, fight or flight were the two options for an acute stress response. Well, I guess humans have evolved since then (or at least our understanding of them has), and now there are four acute stress responses: fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. Let’s look at the acute stress responses and see what they mean for stock market investors.

The Pros & Cons of Investing in Physical Gold

It is no secret that gold has been historically valued from ancient times until today. Just by describing why people appreciate it, you will already see the pros of this precious metal. People used gold in trading for a long time, and today, people are storing metal as a valuable investment.

Are we in an Index Fund Bubble?

Are we in an index fund bubble? Should you stay the course and keep investing, or should you sell and look for better opportunities? As with most things there is no one size fits all answer. The markets are in a state of turmoil, so it is easy to see why one would think that avoiding certain asset classes might be a good idea. Let’s take a look at index fund investing so you can see if it is right for you.

10 Ways to Find Affordable Prescription Medications

Every American knows that healthcare costs are expensive. Even if you have health insurance or Medicare, it isn’t always easy to find affordable prescription medications. Once you reach your annual spending limit, there is a coverage gap. This leaves patients to pay out of pocket for the medicine they need.

The Golden Rule of Personal Finance

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has a foundational problem. It’s 186 feet tall and weighs 14,500 tons. But its foundation is only 10 feet deep and built into silt and clay. Five years after construction (~1178 A.D.), the foundation shifted and the tower famously “leaned.” Oops.


After I had been in college for about a month I went on the Chase app and saw my checking account balance. To my surprise, I noticed that I only had 20 dollars left out of the initial amount that I was given for my first semester. In addition to only having 20 dollars left I had my credit card bill payment coming up soon so I was in a state of intense stress as not paying my bill on time would affect my credit score.


College ignites excitement and thrill. You are finally independent to explore new cities, follow your own schedule, and more! But with this new found freedom there is also anxiety and intimidation. College is a new environment that requires adjustment. A major change is controlling your personal finances.


College ignites excitement and thrill. You are finally independent to explore new cities, follow your own schedule, and more! But with this new found freedom there is also anxiety and intimidation. College is a new environment that requires adjustment. A major change is controlling your personal finances.

Total Return Forecasts: Major Asset Classes | 2 November 2022

Expected long-run returns for most of the major asset classes continue to look relatively attractive after this year’s market declines, based on updates of models run by CapitalSpectator.com. In turn, a broad measure of risk assets points to a performance premium in the future vs. recent history.