Make Yours a Success!
By Loretta Saff
Let me begin by saying that I think it would be a good idea to retire the word, ‘retirement.’ But I think we know that won’t happen; the word is just too ingrained in our vocabulary. And yet, its connotation is volatile – often causing varied reactions.
At the Retirement Party, the word screams excitement!
“Lucky you! You’ve earned your FREEDOM.”
“Now you can travel! Where will you go?”
“Ah, no schedule, no stress. What a relief.”
Standing around the water fountain, the word can bring ridicule:
“He’s over the hill.”
“She’s incapable of anything new and fresh.”
“He’s a ‘has been’ and a ‘usta be!’
Obviously, most people want the excitement and success version after leaving the workplace. No more structured schedules, stressful office interactions, and long and boring meetings. But how to best prepare for what’s ahead? Even though there is so much more to retirement than making sure you have enough money, make sure you have enough money. So, what is the best way to handle the non-financial retirement issues so that those next 25-30 years are all that you want them to be? Let’s look at the research.
California psychologist and gerontologist Dr. Ken Dychtwald and his group of the nation’s foremost researchers on aging have found there are four emotional stages of retirement:
ANTICIPATION – around 5 years before retirement
LIBERATION – The Retirement Party/The Honeymoon (first 6-12 months)
FRUSTRATION – aka Disappointment
REORIENTATION - Finding your purpose and determining how to get there
Those first two stages sound familiar and are looking pretty good, living up to the connotation of success in retirement. But perhaps many of you know someone whose honeymoon is over, and now that person is feeling ‘over the hill” and keeps introducing themselves as a ‘usta be.’
With a little planning, you can turn those last two stages into ‘happiness’ and ‘satisfaction’ and not waste valuable time trying to figure it all out. Here is an easy two-step process.
Step One: Ask yourself, “Who Am I Now?” This will encourage you to take a good look at your wants, needs and priorities. As you get older, priorities change. You don’t need to make more money or focus on career building. What do you really want to do now?
Would you really like to keep your job part-time? Start asking questions. How do you feel about volunteering? Research non-profit options in areas that attract you. And that passion (hobby) you gave up years ago? Do you still have that guitar? Thinking about what you want now brings up many interesting possibilities for you to pursue.
Step Two: Consider these four main areas that are a checklist to help determine your success in retirement. People are living longer today, so you will want to be ready to enjoy the new-found time.
THE PHYSICAL: Get in shape to be able to travel and play chase with the grandkids. If just beginning, start slowly. Go for walks, join a gym, or exercise class. You don’t have to run a marathon but if you would like to try, go ahead!
THE MENTAL: Work on shifting your outlook to one of optimism and enjoyment of each day. Looking at the world with a glass half full will help you be able to better handle the inevitable bumps in the road.
THE SOCIAL: Examine your social network. Now is the time to broaden your friends to include people outside of work. Surround yourself with people who are fun and can teach you something new or share an existing passion.
THE SPIRITUAL: This involves finding your purpose and doing something for the greater good. How can you help someone in need? Do you have skills, knowledge, or expertise that you have gained over the years that you can share? What will make you look forward to getting out of bed in the morning?
Following these two steps well in advance of retirement will get you on the road to being ‘happy’ and ‘successful.’ I know you are busy but consider this time an investment in a non-financial IRA for your future! Get a pen and paper and jot down how you will address each of these steps. And, if you have already retired, start working on these areas today. Rescue yourself from any frustration or disappointment you may be feeling.
Finding purpose when you no longer have a full-time job dictating your schedule can be a real challenge. Create a curious list. Think about how you can reach out beyond yourself – learn something new, join a community effort, all the time looking for something that will make you feel satisfied and fulfilled. The beauty of your activities in retirement is that if what you’ve chosen is not quite the answer, you can easily move on to something else.
Your 401K may be nice to admire but it can’t go on travel adventures with you; your work team won’t want to meet every week for lunch, and your adult children will soon realize that you can’t always babysit because you are very busy with chairing your book club and playing pickleball.
Wishing you retirement happiness today and every day,
Retirement: Imagine the possibilities!