Improving lives through sound financial planning.

In this episode of From the Orange Couch, Robert W. Tull, Jr., CEO & President of Tull Financial Group interviews special guest, Colonel Mark Papen, U.S. Air Force (Retired) on the emotional and psychological impact of transitioning to retirement.

If you’re looking to retire in the near future, this is a discussion you won’t want to miss! Join Robin and Mark as they share practical tips and sage advice for preparing for retirement and living a purposeful, confident retirement.

The discussion starts with Robin’s hallmark question:

  • (1) Paint me a picture of what retirement looks like for you. Robin and Mark go on to discuss a variety of topics including:
  • (2) How do I feel confident about having enough money to last throughout retirement?
  • (3) What are some things I should plan in advance to get ready for retirement?
  • (4) Will people treat me differently now that I’ve reached retirement age?
  • (5) What should I consider in managing the relational side of retirement with my spouse, family and loved ones?
  • (6) How is continual learning vital to a purposeful retirement?
  • (7) How do I transition from a busy day-to-day work lifestyle into a more relaxed paced retirement?
  • (8) What role does health play in retirement?

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Thanks for watching and stay tuned for the next segment of From the Orange Couch!


Hi! This is Robin Tull. I am President & CEO of Tull Financial Group. We’re coming to you again from the Orange Couch, where we hope this information has been helpful in your journey to financial success. This time we’re doing a little something different. We have a guest, Mark Papen, who is a retired colonel from the United States Air Force. He also has recently retired from the private sector also in the area of security services. Today we just thought we would talk about the practical side of transitioning from an emotional/psychological impact as you move into retirement.

0:43 | Question #1: Paint me a picture of what retirement looks like.

Mark, what I generally ask people is: paint me a picture of what retirement looks like. When you think of that for yourself and for your wife, what did it look like a year ago?

That’s a great question, Robin, because I think people wrestle with that more than anything else. What is retirement? Is it going to be what everybody else is doing? Is it what people are telling me I should do? It’s probably the most asked question when you talk about retiring. They say, “What are you going to do? What are you going to do?” I think number one, most importantly, you really have to think about it. You have to take some deliberate time — even a year out or more — and start thinking about what that means to you. Most importantly in my case, and if you’ve got a significant other, I think it’s extremely important to include your family, to include your spouse because it’s not just, “I’m retiring and I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that.” What you find out really quickly is — from a marriage perspective — it’s a team thing. So, I would say you have to think about it, you have to write it down, and then define it. Define what it means to you.

1:45 | Question #2: How do I feel confident about having enough money to last throughout retirement?

The thing I’ve seen is the fear of running out of money when I talk to people. I always tell them, “You tell me how long you plan to live and what your expenses are — it’s math.” But it’s more than that. It’s the psychological side of being fearful of what if I do run out. Did you and your wife ever experience that?

Absolutely. I think as you run up into your 50s and get closer to that point, you’re constantly thinking about it. I know every time I would take time off from work, I would spend a week — at least a couple hours every morning during my Christmas break — taking m notes and thinking about do I have enough money. What I found out was that you could be relatively confident. In my case, and I only speak for myself, it really took the relationship that we started with you about five years ago to build that confidence and to really get that validation and all those other little things I wasn’t thinking about to get me to that point. Once you find out that you can feel confident from a financial perspective, then the doors open up and you can really feel comfortable about what you want to do to live a purposeful life — what you want to do after retirement. But if you’re concerned about finances, that really is a hedge against thinking about what you want to do and what might be possible.

3:00 | Question #3: What are some things I should plan in advance to get ready for retirement?

So Mark, I’m sure there were some things that you had to plan in advance to get ready for this just like you did at work. Share some of those with our audience.

Sure. I’ll tell you one of the first things that I recognized was you live for years and you’re thinking about your financial stability, your financial health, and you work so hard on that and you save, save, save. I learned really quickly there’s a whole different side of the world after retirement, and that is: how are you going to live? How are you going to be purposeful? How are you going to enjoy yourself? How are you going to be passionate? What I started to do was I started reading. Within the year before I retired, I read about five books on the passionate side of how to live and how to survive after retirement. I started writing things down. As I came to the retirement point, I created a Wheel for myself. I call it a “Wheel and Spokes.” If you can imagine a wheel with the spokes representing those most important parts of your life. What do you value? Your health. Your relationships. Your spouse. Whatever it might be — a particular activity or engagement. Then you start writing those little objectives down — what are you going to do? I’m going to get out once a week and do this. I’m going to call this person and try to sign up for this program. I created this view of what I thought retirement was going to be, and I think it’s still very accurate. Most recently, I took a look at it again and found out some of those sub things that I wanted to do to reach those goals for those things that are most important to me weren’t quite hitting the mark. I probably got to about 50-60% of them, which was good, but it gives you an opportunity to reevaluate. So, the transition’s great. Set your expectations, write them down, and then take another look at them in a year from now to see if they’re still there and how you’re doing.

5:09 | Question #4: Will people treat me differently now that I’ve reached retirement age?

We’re going to have some of these books that Mark is referencing. One of the books that I referenced earlier was Younger Next Year, which is in the area of health. You mentioned “Blue Zones.” There is a difference in how you think and how you act and how people treat you. There’s a book, Breaking the Age Code, which we’ll put as a reference, too. It’s about how your beliefs about aging determine how long and well you live. What I’ve seen is that people can sometimes treat you differently especially as you get older, and it’s something to be prepared for. You probably haven’t experienced that yet because you’re just one year in, but any thoughts in that area?

There’s a lot of truth to it. There are terms like agism or age discrimination or whatnot. I think I’ll probably feel it as I get older, but people do treat you differently. People recognize your age and act to what they think might be appropriate. Now in my mind I still feel 20, but when they look at me they’re like okay well this guy might not understand this and you see somebody explaining something a little bit more than maybe what you need, which is okay. It is an experience that you go through, so be ready for it and determine how you’re going to react to it.

6:15 | Question #5: What should I consider in managing the relational side of retirement with my spouse, family and loved ones?

Right. I think the thing that you mentioned a little bit is the relational side of things. I remember a friend of mine who’s a CPA. When he transitioned, he was home spending a lot of time with his wife. His wife would complain to my wife and say, “Wow, he’s rearranging the refrigerator and driving me crazy!” You probably weren’t rearranging the refrigerator, but you’re spending more time with your spouse or significant other.

Absolutely. We’ve come up with a concept that I’ll mention to you that I think is helpful. There’s a lot of truth in that. About two and a half years before I actually retired and because of COVID and whatnot, my company had me working from home. That was an incredible training grounds. My mom used to tell me, “Well, if you guys (my wife and me) can survive in the house for two years, you’re probably going to be able to make it in retirement.” It took a lot of trial and error. I did find myself doing some of that stuff. You’re at home a little bit more and you want to be helpful, so next thing you know I’m unloading the dishwasher and I’m up doing this and that, but it may not be in the right order of what things need to happen. My wife was helpful at keeping me directed that way, but you do have to think about it.

The concept that we came up with was: we have to understand that in retirement there is “He Time” and there’s “She Time,” but there’s “We Time.” If you can organize yourself in that manner — thinking I’m going to have my certain hobbies or the luncheons I’m going to go out with my friends, and my wife is going to go out and participate in these activities, but we’re always coming together. We’re always going to come together and have that “We Time.” Then I think you can find a balance because that all exists.

7:58 | Question #6: How is continual learning vital to a purposeful retirement?

What I hear you saying is that you’ve got to be intentional. You’ve got to plan ahead. I think of a couple that we work with who moved to a retirement community that had a university. That university provided classes for them to take and to even have testing. It was that idea of continual learning even beyond retirement, and I’m sure you probably have done some things, too, in that area.

Absolutely. One person told me that one of the things you want to make sure that you do in retirement is don’t stop doing a lot of the things you were doing before. That has to do with the learning aspect. It has to do with reading. That’s one important thing that I found is in the workforce – not everybody; everyone does different things — a lot of people are on computers. They’re up with technology. They know how to communicate; they are texting, video chats and this and that. After you leave the workforce, you’re not doing that, and you start to lose it. My recommendation is stay on top of it. If you have kids, they are great resources to find out what the current this is and the quickest way to do this. Because as you get into your 70s, 80s and 90s, that will become extremely important for you to still be independent in life.

9:11 | Question #7: How do I transition from a busy day-to-day work lifestyle into a more relaxed paced retirement?

Mark, you mentioned the workforce. You’re doing projects in the Air Force. You’re planning ahead. You’re working with people daily. You’re going to lunch with them. All of a sudden that platform goes away. Did you experience that at all?

I did. I’ve experienced that, and a lot of friends have experienced that as well. I have a neighbor that recently retired. He was pretty high up at his company. He believed because of his level of importance, once he retired, they were still going to come back to him and ask questions about how did you do that. He told me he didn’t get a single phone call after the first year. That’s not a bad thing. It just means that your relationships are going to change so you have to be ready for that and keep your eyes open. I have an opportunity to go to the gym a few times a week. We belong to a church. I joined a Master Gardeners program with the City of Suffolk. There are a number of other organizations. All you have to do is reach out and be open to new ideas. Don’t be afraid. Be deliberate. Ask the guy that’s over there in the corner a question and you might find there’s a lot of similarities.

10:18 | Question #8: What role does health play in retirement?

You talked about the gym. I am actually in an aerobics class where we have 50-year olds, 60-year olds and we have an 80-year-old. We have a great time. We spend a lot of time together – very intentional about that. We even have an award called the Younger Next Year Award. What that is that your age may not change, but the number of steps you do, your heart rate, your weight, all of these things. It’s kind of fun. We have these little goals that we set. In the area of health, it’s very important to be intentional there, too.

Absolutely. I was actually having a conversation with an older gentleman in the gym the other day. He was well up into his 70s and I asked him, “Are you getting in shape for something or what’s your experience with a gym?” He said something that was shocking, and it kind of set me on a track to make sure that I stay where I need to be health wise. He said, “I just want to make sure I can always pick up my grandkids.” From a health perspective — his legs, his back — that’s what’s important to him. The practical side. I’ve taken a different view from a health perspective. I don’t want to go in the gym and say my goal is to bench 225. Because as you get older, joints go, but you want to maintain a practical side of health and make sure that you’re participating in something that you can do for your whole life and it makes sense. Maybe you want to work on those things so you can pick up your grandkids when you’re 80 years old.

11:46 | Conclusion

What I think is no one approach is perfect. You’ve got to find an approach that’s right for you. Mark has just simply shared a few approaches and things that he and his wife have done. To summarize, is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience?

I would say that number one: be deliberate. Number two: a year out up to retirement, start writing things down. What does retirement mean to you? What’s important for you in your life? Here’s another piece of it as well — what don’t you want to do? I no longer want to go into an office every day. I no longer want to have to get up at 6:30 in the morning. Then that also helps you define what you want to do in retirement. So, be deliberate, write it down, and then review it occasionally to see how you’re doing.

Great advice, Mark! Thank you for joining us today. Thank you also for your service. We appreciate that. We want to thank the audience for joining us today. We hope this information was helpful as you transition from the practical side of preparing for retirement. Please join us again next month From the Orange Couch Thank you!

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