Are You Making a Living or Making a Life?  It's often a time of stress and self-reflection when career minded individuals are suddenly faced with retirement.

“I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life.” – Maya Angelou

In today’s world, it’s easy to lose sight of the wisdom in those words.

There are expectations, after all. Our parents have invested a lot of time and money in us. Wouldn’t want to disappoint them! We have mortgages to pay and families to support. Can’t let them down! Someday, we want to retire. Best to earn more money every year and live below our means so we can make that happen!

How, beneath the weight of all those demands, are we supposed to focus on anything BUT making a living?

Some people can do it. They go to work every day, put in their prescribed 7.75 hours, come home and spend their leisure time focused on other things. They make enough money to support their families and maintain a healthy work-life balance that’s the envy of their work-obsessed peers.

For those work-obsessed peers, it’s a different story. A recent study found that 30% of Americans report that their personal identities are defined by their career. If you’re one of them, your world becomes very narrow. Challenges at work are always on your mind. You start to value people, activities, and relationships based solely on how they can help your career. If you’re not careful, you can end up emotionally empty outside the office.

Advice abounds on how to guard against defining yourself solely on the basis of your job, but all that advice is of little use if you’re still struggling to achieve a healthy work-life balance when it’s time to retire or if you experience an involuntary separation from your company.

When that happens, it’s natural to experience the stages of grief, much as we do when we lose a loved one. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – it’s important to let yourself work through each stage, process the emotions and most importantly, find a way to move forward.

If you find yourself stuck in one of the stages of grief, it is important to seek help. Talk to a trusted friend, family member or a professional counselor to help you process the loss, realign and find your new direction. Maybe you’re not actually ready to retire. Maybe this is a perfect time to learn a new skill and change career direction.

Whatever the case, it’s likely that you’ll also have some significant financial concerns to address as you work out the strategy for your next move. It’s imperative that your financial health isn’t neglected while facing your emotional challenges.

For many people, this time of transition offers an opportunity to reassess long-term financial goals and there will be an immediate need to assess and strategize the best way to manage existing assets, making this the perfect time to seek the help of a financial professional.

Keep in mind that you’ve just suffered a devastating loss: the loss of your professional identity. That makes it more important than ever to see out a financial advisor who believes in a consultative approach, and who will help you discover your financial goals and how to achieve them.

Take the time you need to find an advisor who will take a realistic look at your present financial situation, listen to your goals and use today’s best technology to provide detailed plans for your future. Having a clear picture of what you can look forward to is an important part of the recovery process and can help you move on to an exciting new stage of life.

The great Maya Angelou was right. Making a living is not the same thing as making a life. If you’re struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance or facing an unexpected change in circumstances, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Talk to a friend or a counselor to work through the loss, then tackle the financial side of your new reality with some help from a qualified, consultative financial advisor who will assess your current situation, respect your goals and help you chart a new course for how to reach them.