Mistakes Men Make Before and After Retiring by Bob Lowry

Mistakes Men Make Before and After Retiring by Bob Lowry

Men Making Mistakes. How’s that for a provocative premise for a post? Well, there are two obvious reasons I want to address this subject:

1) Most blogs are written by and for women. I am one of the few males writing a non-financial retirement blog. I can speak honestly about my gender’s retirement issues.

2) I am pretty sure this will generate some interesting comments that should provoke some fascinating discussions.

Obviously, it would be dangerous for me to write about mistakes women make before and after retiring. That wouldn’t go well so I will stick with my own sex. Several of the points I make can apply to both men and women but, I will focus on guys for now. I am pretty sure female readers will be glad to add comments that cover any issues I have missed and if a problem listed is not exclusive to one sex.

I certainly hope some of my male readers (of which there are many… over 40% of the total readers) will join to defend, explain, or agree. So, let’s have a little fun as we learn together. Just, please, no nastiness or name-calling. I am a sensitive guy.

A) Mistaking work identity for own identity. This leads the list as a serious male problem. We spend years building a certain image and identity at work. It could be as a top sales producer. It may be that we are seen as dependable and hard-working. For some it could be considered being the best negotiator in the bunch. For others it could be someone willing to take on the tough jobs or risky ventures. Being well known in one’s industry can be a goal.

Unfortunately, that often means our other identities are relegated to the back seat. Husband, father, son, dependable friend…are not the first ways we think to talk about ourselves. Yet, aren’t they the roles that will outlast the job? Aren’t they the ones that should truly define us?  When you leave work won’t you be forgotten pretty quickly?

Your last quarterly report, your excellent organizational chart, your hard work ethic and loyalty might have made you feel worthy. I suggest that being worthy of others’ love and respect is much more important. I sincerely wish I could have learned this lesson quite a long time before retirement. Being a “success” in my career could never equal being an active part of a family. I missed the importance of balance between the two parts of my life.

B) Beginning retirement without a plan. Let me ask a few questions: would you tackle a problem at work without thinking through the options and outcomes? Would you set up an investment and savings plan without any research or investigation?

Of course not. Retirement requires the same vigor. Beginning a stage of life that could last 20 or 30 years without some idea of where you are going or want to accomplish is unwise. An effective plan would include the proper managing of your finances. But, it should cover so much more. Thinking through relational issues, the amount of travel you envision, where to live, and how to use the roughly 2,600 hours of extra time you gain each year from not working five days a week must be addressed.

Importantly, a satisfying retirement will require a constant adjustment of the choices you have made. An passion or hobby loses its hold on you. A health issue causes changes in living styles or travel plans. A major financial shift in the country’s fortunes means a budget reshaping is in order. You discover a creative outlet that suddenly calls out for fulfillment. Volunteerism suddenly enters your mind.

Beginning any major project without an initial idea of what you want to accomplish would never fly at work. Neither will it upon retirement. Too many men think retirement means the days of plans and goals are over. I will admit it took me almost two years to put together a semblance of an approach.

C) Upsetting the apple cart at home. The number one complaint or fear of a spouse who is at home is the tendency of their male partner to retire with a goal of improving the “efficiency” of household operations. Many men assume that the organizational approach used at work is easily transferable to the retired environment. The “plan” is developed and implemented….problem solved.

Nope. Retirement doesn’t work that way. There are too many moving parts. There is likely another person involved who has her own system for managing the household. As the new kid on the block, we must learn the system and make suggestion gradually and with consent of the other person.

A similar fear is that the person retiring assumes he has earned the right to relax and not participate in household chores and duties. Big mistake. The other person has probably been working at a job before coming home. If not, raising children and/or maintaining a home is a more-then-full time job. If someone needs a break, it is probably your partner.

D) Not sharing financial information with spouse, partner, or family. I have written a lot about this mistake. Not giving your partner the information needed to keep the financial ship afloat in the event of a major illness or death, puts her (or him, or them) in a perilous position. If you haven’t shared where passwords are kept, how to pay bills on line, when taxes are due, and who handles investment information, the person suddenly in charge is in a pickle.

If you don’t have a will and power of attorney along with a health directive in place, your partner may be unable to execute your wishes. She (or your family) may be unable to pay the bills if checking and credit card accounts are not properly designated.

If you have always handled the money stuff, make sure your partner, or a trusted relative can step in when needed. Guys…give up total control to help protect those you love. Admission: my wife is uncomfortable with financial stuff so she hasn’t pushed me to tell her everything she needs to know. This remains a work in progress.

OK, I will stop here. There’s no reason to pile on! I have several more “mistakes” that guys make regarding life before and after retirement, but it is time to let you have your turn.

Women: add your thoughts, comments, and anything I missed.
Guys: defend, refine, agree as you see fit.

I am guilty of all four of these flaws. I stand at the head of the line. Hopefully, my wife of 42 years will agree there has been some progress as we take our retirement journey together.

By Bob Lowry

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