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The View From Unretirement: The secret to a happier retirement might be in your ‘retirement quotient’

You know all about IQ (intelligence quotient) and probably EQ (emotional quotient or emotional intelligence). But if you’re getting close to retirement or in retirement, you might also want to know about your RQ. That, of course, is your Retirement Quotient.

It’s the designation Robert Laura, founder and chief executive of the Retirement Coaches Association, uses to help people make a successful transition to retirement. The higher your RQ, he says, the easier and better that retirement transition will be.

The RQ equation

If you like equations, you’ll love Laura’s formula for RQ. It’s this:

IQ + EQ + SQ + AQ = RQ

Here, SQ is your social quotient (ability to build and maintain a network of friends over time) and AQ is your adversity quotient (ability to deal with life’s adversities). Combine them with your IQ and your EQ and, voilà, you have your RQ.

To calculate your RQ, Laura has just come out with a multiple-choice, 56-question, online personal assessment tool for people about three to five years from retirement. He calls it the RQ Profile.

The cost to get your RQ score and RQ Profile Report through the site as well as a trained retirement-coach consultation about them is $29 in November (the price will rise to $79 starting in December).

“The RQ measures your potential to struggle with the transition to retirement,” says Laura. “So many people go into retirement with vague ideas.”

Read: How to get a guaranteed retirement spending rate of 4.3%

Whittling down from 180 retirement questions to 56

Laura spent two years and thousands of hours creating the RQ tool, whittling down the number of questions from 180. This meant getting advice from hundreds of retirement coaches and everyday people to tune up the tool and then working with tech gurus to make it simple to use.

His RQ assessment, which takes about 20 minutes to complete, scores you in three areas: retirement knowledge, work life and personal life, with a combined total score of up to 1,395. 

“We’re a society where everyone wants a number,” says Laura.

The point of getting your RQ score isn’t so much knowing how prepared you are psychologically and socially for retirement, though you’ll get a good sense of that.

Learning your ‘variances’

It’s more about understanding your “variances”—where the kind of person you are doesn’t square with the way you envision your retirement.

“We wanted to be able to grab someone’s personality and their preferences, lay it over the transition and what they know about it and see where they’re at to facilitate a discussion [with a retirement adviser] in a planning process,” says Laura.

For instance, maybe your RQ Profile shows you’re a Type A, left-brain extrovert, but the retirement you’ve envisioned doesn’t match those traits. Or maybe your results reveal that work is super important to you, but you plan to quit working cold turkey in retirement.

In cases like these, you’ll want to rethink your retirement plans (since it’s doubtful you’ll change your personality at this point in life).

“Retirement is like the world’s biggest New Year’s resolution. ‘When I get there, I’m going to change,’” says Laura. “No, you’re not. You’re going to be the same.”

Read: From ‘coastal grandmother’ style to accessible farmhouse furniture, boomers are becoming popular among big brands

Getting your psychological needs met in retirement

Laura says this all relates to a psychological concept called “enmesh,” which is about where you get your psychological needs met.

Workaholics, he notes, will want to find replacements for work so they’ll have other forms of mental stimulus and purpose in retirement. (Recent AARP research found that 28% of Americans surveyed who aren’t retired expect to work for pay in retirement.)

An RQ score on the tool of anything below 1,000 could benefit from some work, Laura notes.

Don’t know where to live in retirement? Check out the Where Should I Retire? column

How I scored on the RQ assessment

I took his RQ assessment and scored a 971. Laura told me that was “excellent” (many who’ve taken it have scored in the 800s). But I think he was buttering me up a little.

I did score well on a few keys to a positive retirement—such as making plans to volunteer, work part-time and improve my health.

But even though I thought I’d done a good job preparing for the “unretirement” stage of life I’ve lived since January 2022 (I’m working part time writing and editing, volunteering and mentoring, taking care of my health, traveling and spending time with friends and family), I apparently have some retirement-transition work to do.

One reason my RQ score got docked: I hadn’t written down my retirement plan. “Research suggests that people are 42% more likely to achieve a goal by writing it down,” Laura notes.

Other assessments for retirement

The RQ tool isn’t the first to ask people questions about themselves and their retirement plans, of course.

Retirement Options, a division of Career Partners International, has a clinical type of assessment tool known as Retirement Success Profile. And retirement coaches such as Nick Freedman of Retire on Purpose and Larry Jacobson of Buoy Coaching have their own series of questions to answer.

But Laura’s is thorough without being taxing. Laura calls it “technology infused with the human element,” which sounds about right.

“We hope it is a disrupter,” he adds.

Next, Laura expects to roll out a version of the RQ tool for people already in their first one to five years of retirement, to help them make course corrections as needed.

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