Is Retirement Not All You Had Hoped It Would Be?
The word is out. Baby Boomers are turning 65 in droves, at the astounding rate of 10,000 a day! This marks the start of retirement for many of us. For some of us retirement life begins even earlier, either at our own choice or by being thrust upon us. As we cross over into life after retirement, we clearly are entirely unlike any earlier cohort of retirees. This fact and reality has already become clear. We will not go quietly! But the path from here to there -– from long-term, highly involved, career to the “What to do in retirement?” –- is not immediately obvious, even to the most creative and forward-thinking among us. What is my retirement plan? Will I return to school and change careers after 60? Will I seek and find a post-retirement job? Will my retirement work be in my current field or a different one? Would I be happier with part-time work after retirement? Will I design new work for myself that fulfills a long-held dream? Will I enter a retirement life of leisure, then escape that life for a different retirement path entirely? Will I combine travel with creative work?
Despite a consuming desire to get retirement right, do you now find yourself temporarily teetering on a precarious high wire of newfound freedom and personal exploration? Have you asked yourself why? Certainly, this time of liberation is what you have waited for all those years of your career. So why does your retirement life already feel so lifeless?
Where Are Our Role Models Now?
Throughout our career and family lives, when we entered newly challenging territory — marriage, parenthood, new work, promotion — we looked to our role models for guidance. But where are our role models now? Who will light our way to getting retirement right? Some of us may know a few stories of individuals from former generations who retired, and then went on to conquer new worlds and contribute continued value. That sounds good to us. But how do we get from here to there ourselves? And how do we get there with our own unique person, values, interests, and nature intact and well-served?
My friend, Danielle’s, mother stands as an example. Iris (name substituted) spent her long career as a pharmacist, highly trained and expert. She was well-accustomed to standing out… for setting an example of competence and accomplishment. And then she was forced to retire for health reasons. But she entered into her retirement without a plan for her own future. Her family watches helplessly as she grows increasingly lethargic and depressed, not knowing how to help her beyond making sure that her health issues are seen to. One day, Danielle was on the phone with her mother while she headed to the salon where she works as a beautician and stylist. Iris suddenly and unexpectedly burst into tears, still mourning the devastating reality that her daughter was on her way to work, and she, Iris, would never be on her own way to work again. Yet she had so many years ahead. And so much energy, mental agility and competence. What would she do now with all this life ahead of her after retirement? What would she do with HERSELF?
Do You Know Where Are YOU Headed for the Next 20-30 Years? If Not, How Will You Find Out?
Does Iris’s story come dangerously close to your own? It is certainly a common story among us. Especially when we consider what all has changed about life after retirement for us, the Boomers who are now on the front line entering retirement now. Here’s a crash course… the Cliff Notes:
- For starters, no past generation has had another 1/3 of their lives ahead of them after retirement.
- No matter how thoroughly you have planned financially for your new life passage, when you actually pass the retirement threshold yourself, your psychological, emotional, and even physical, responses are likely to be surprising.
- It becomes immediately obvious… money is not the only issue that lies ahead. And, clearly, having money is not enough.
- Beyond money, even more pressing questions that emerge after retirement include:
- What about purpose,
- and engagement,
- and connection,
- and relevance,
- and learning?
- What about discovery,
- and health,
- and challenge?
We do not lose our capacity and need for these essential life elements when our retirement party ends!