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May 23, 2019

The View From The Top

Date: May 23, 2019 

Author: Kris Carroll, CFA®, CFP®

Estimated Read Time: 2 minutes


Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a psychological theory about human needs that is often illustrated in a five-level pyramid. Needs lower down on the hierarchy must be met before individuals can attend to needs higher up. The top of the pyramid represents what Maslow believed to be an inborn desire every person has to be “self-actualized” or more simply put, to be all that he or she can be.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs


As a retiree in 2019, you are sitting at the top of the pyramid, which by definition means that your basic needs are satisfied. You can eat, you have a place to live and merely living in the United States provides a certain level of safety. You also most likely have family, loved ones and a place where you feel you belong.

Your esteem needs are met as well. If you don’t feel esteemed, then you should. Retirement as a concept or practice did not exist 150 years ago. You should have a sense of accomplishment that you have produced enough in your lifetime so that you can stop working, still live at the top of the pyramid and not worry about whether your basic needs are met.

Retirement is living in self-actualization. You’ve lived your life and found greater purpose. Retirees oftentimes become distracted by worrying about lower levels of the pyramid when they don’t need to. Take time to appreciate where you are and take pride in how far you’ve come and the needs you’ve fulfilled to get there.

Don’t get me wrong, we will all experience things that we feel challenge the foundation of the pyramid, such as health issues or the loss of loved ones. However, don’t mistakenly think that these experiences remove you from the top. Maslow is clear that people move on to fulfilling higher needs once a basic need is “more or less satisfied.” Perfection is not a requirement for self-actualization.

Bottom line: Enjoy the top and appreciate how far you’ve come. Spend your time thinking about the higher purpose and looking at the bigger picture. You have a great view from up there.


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