Are You Going to Retire “From” or “To”?

Think you’re ready to retire? Hopefully, you’ve figured out what you want to ‘do’ when you grow up. If retirement is simply an escape from your work, you may be setting yourself up for some not so golden years.

TRUE STORY

It has truly been a blessing to get to work with so many people in planning for and achieving their retirement goals. However, retirement doesn’t always begin well for everyone – oh the stories I could tell! Many years ago, a dear client retired from corporate America.  He had a high paying job that fed into a consulting career. He even wrote a well-received management book based on his experiences in board rooms across the U.S. He and his wife retired to the sunny south, where his golf game greatly improved over the first six months of his much-anticipated retirement. He was loving life! For a while….

Finally, this former corporate dealmaker’s excitement of ‘scratch’ golf and the weekly routine with the guys at the clubhouse faded. His wife called me one day to tell me that the husband was depressed and not getting off the couch any longer. He had retired from work, but not to anything that could fulfill his internal need for purpose in life.

He and I discussed how to solve the problem and get back ‘engaged’ in a more productive role. He didn’t need the money from another career, nor did he want the stress and strain. Within a couple of days, he took a trip down to the local community college with his resume in hand and offered his experiences in teaching evening classes to business owners and corporate employees. One month later he called me the morning after his first class – totally excited about this new phase in life. Retirement was great, once again!

THE ISSUE

Several years ago I had a psychologist join me on my live talk radio show. One of his specialties is as a retirement coach, helping people anticipate and prepare for the potential psychological issues around retirement. He reiterated that men, especially, gain so much of their identity from their work. Their status and achievements play a huge role in how they see themselves and therefore have a massive impact on their own self-worth. When that identity is gone it can be devastating. And everyone close to them pays the price. Just think how many divorces you’ve seen by seemingly happily married couples just after retirement. Or how about the self-appointed neighborhood deed restriction enforcer that drives everyone crazy? My theory is he’s retired now, but was once in control of much, and now has nothing or no one to direct (except for the sweet wife who can’t wait until he gets out of the house and on ‘patrol’).

WOMEN ARE DIFFERENT

On the other hand, in general, women seem to handle this transition from work with much greater poise. The good psychologist told the radio listeners that women find meaning in things outside of work much easier than men. They know how to be more useful in a variety of things. Men tend to be pretty myopic. About right now, the women readers are wondering why it took so long for one of us men to admit what everyone already knows.

One interesting note from Dr. Gallup is that many women who chose to have their career at home seem to struggle with the fact that the husband retired, but they still have all the same responsibilities as before.

SOLUTIONS?

Retirement is a relatively new concept in our society. There’s only one vague reference to retirement in the entire Bible; where the ancient priests were urged to move to the outer temple area and let the heavy lifting to the young bucks.

So it’s really our culture’s continued search for pleasure and convenience that leads us to the traditional concept of retirement. I’ll submit that a happy and fulfilling retirement is one where the retiree continues to find purpose and meaning in what they do – what they retire ‘to’. Most often this is accomplished by pouring time, wisdom, and experiences into a worthwhile cause.

Grandkids, church work, charities, or even teaching evening classes like the client mentioned earlier. What are your values and priorities in life? What do you enjoy doing that allows you to engage with others and give something of value to them? The more time you spend ahead of the retirement date planning for these things and seeking out opportunities, the better prepared you’ll be for the big transition.

PLANNING

Financial planning works best when completed in tandem with an understanding and appreciation that all of these things need to work together. I hope your retirement will be much more than a reconciliation of your financial assets and an investment portfolio.

So, what are YOU retiring from or to? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear your feedback.

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