By Phil MacLellan
Everyone retires – if they are lucky. Retirement is a phase of life which we all hope to achieve. However reaching a certain age does not automatically guarantee a full, relaxed or responsibility free retirement – essentially, the retirement we aspire to.
People retire for numerous reasons. The most obvious being they have reached a combination of age and the desire to relax which makes them feel the job no longer offers the quality of life a person desires. However there is no way to categorize retirement, as, driven by the fact we are all individuals, we all retire for different reasons. Some people just want a career change – not really retiring rather repositioning, as I call it. Some are following a life’s dream, my case, others for medical or family reasons.
I have been retired for almost a dozen years. They have actually been the best years of my life. I retired to take on challenges that were commensurate with my life’s interests so my retirement has been more interesting and challenging than my “previous” life.
I have a few friends who have retired since I made the move. I have given them some advice I will share now. As I mentioned previously retirements are taken for personal reasons. However I feel it is important to underline important aspects of retirement.
Many people work themselves to a point of exhaustion, then realize that life is fleeting past them and they are missing it totally. They add up the facts; fatigue, the end of the road in their job, family disruption or medical issues and precipitously announce their retirement.
At the time, due to mitigating circumstances, that may or may not have been properly addressed, this person walks into the “office” and says – “I’m done”. Co-workers, friends and acquaintances are shocked to get the news. Mostly people will think – “huh, did you think this through?” The retiree will defend the decision vigorously saying the end of his rope has been reached – wherever that may have taken the retiree.
This is the dangerous situation where many potentially fateful and possibly long term negative decisions are made. Retirement is a gift, there is no way around that. A person works hard for decades to relax in the twilight years. Poor planning however has derailed the so-called “blissful retirement” for many people.
For example, it is a fact of our culture that we earn a certain amount of money, then tend to spend a little more, you know, as a reward to ourselves for our hard work. The retirement pension is, of course, much less than a working salary. A pension is going to be representative of what your income was, thus a pension will be let’s say seventy percent of the former income, depending on your pension plan this could be more or less what you can expect. The import factor is that once you are a retiree you will be taking home and living on less money. This is a cold irrefutable fact. There is no dreaming or fantasizing more money into your bank account.
Poor planning herein revolves around the reality that people frequently do not plan, after retiring, to live on less income. From a financially stable life lived a bit over the edge some new retirees find themselves falling behind financially very quickly in retirement. The potential of a relaxed civilized retirement quickly disappears in the rear view mirror. A newly retired person does not have the skills to deal with this situation if the person did not anticipate properly this lifestyle change. A retiree transitions from a bi-weekly pay cheque that had supported a life style to which the retiree had become accustomed, to a lifestyle where the retiree has to make hard decisions he or she is not equipped/trained to make. Buy a piece of furniture versus going on vacation; get a new gadget or buy groceries. These may very well be the decisions a retiree will have to address on an ongoing basis. Certainly this is not what the retiree had anticipated as a blissful retirement.
I know of many folks who have finished their life’s employment, announced themselves as being retired, and then started a new job almost immediately. I have had both sides of the job category. I retired and ended up in charge of up to three hundred personnel, which was a gift in the environment where I found myself, to jobs where I was merely doing a rote job to fill in my time – not the preferred pastime. However I was out doing “something” and felt rewarded in life. Furthermore being out of the house cut down on the potential of my wife suffocating me with a pillow. Her words were “get out of the house and do something, you are driving me nuts handing around the here”.
Fundamentally to offer free advice – retire wisely. Have a plan. Find challenges that interest you. Volunteer if that is where you find pleasure. Take up a hobby – the possibilities are unlimited. Learn a new skill – something that can be transferred into a small income. I have my own consulting company and I enjoy helping companies with leadership, team building and mentoring-monitoring issues. This is not for everyone only to say that it is possible to have a great, retired life, but do so in the realm of further developing who you are as a person. That process never stops.