Retired – Now What?

changes ahead

Re.tire – to withdraw, or go away or apart, to a place of privacy, shelter, or seclusion, to withdraw from office, business, or active life, usually because of age …

I was talking to a friend yesterday who retired about a year ago. This is a person who had a successful career, received a good benefits package and has enough money to travel and do as she pleases. In short, she is someone that I “thought” really had this retirement thing figured out.

Apparently I was very mistaken.

The more that I talk to her, the more I have come to realize that the most poignant aspect of retirement is that it forces you to reinvent yourself if you are going to be happy. One day your life is filled with people and things that you have to accomplish in order to get paid, and the next day … nothing. You are literally starting a new life from scratch.

No wonder that they don’t let young people retire – they could never handle the stress of a change this abrupt!

Except, the tricky thing about retirement is that there is a great temptation to flounder about in a state a denial about the size and the extent of the changes that you are going through because some aspects of your life have not changed at all. You wake up in the same house, eat the same food and walk the same dog; everything in your life seems very familiar except you have nothing to do.

Or conversely, you go straight from being an executive to an unpaid childcare service where your duties include chauffeur, night nurse, cruise director and cook; and you never get the opportunity to think about what you would really like to do with the rest of your life. I am not saying don’t help care for your grandchildren; I am saying don’t be tricked into raising a second family unless this is what you really want to do.

Think about this: it took you forty years to build and retire from a career doing something that paid the bills. Why does everyone assume that you don’t have to plan for the rest of your life, or that it will only take a few minutes to figure out what you really want to do with your time?

When we are working we dream of sunny days filled with travel, or golf. We don’t focus on how we will fill the days when the fish aren’t biting and we are tired of shopping.

So unless you really want to “withdraw from active life and spend all your time in a place of seclusion because of your age” you might consider coming up with a plan as to how you will begin your retirement.


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