Retirement is the great transition from Erik Erikson’s midlife stage called “generativity vs. stagnation” to the next stage called “Integrity vs. Despair”. Basically, you transition from primarily a “doer” to “someone who has done it”! Like any transition, it comes with a few challenges that require careful preparation. Let me share a few ideas that people through the years have shared with me to avoid a few retirement traps, because integrity feels so much better than despair!
Transitioning to Retirement
Life Based on Wisdom
My brother, Mark, “retired early” and showed me that retirement doesn’t necessarily mean giving up what you have spent a lifetime to build. Consider preparing for ways to transition your professional life into a life based on the wisdom and social skills you have earned along the way and never stop learning. Consider both financially rewarding and volunteer options. These are often very different experiences, different types of people, venues and motivations. You may tend to do better in one than the other.
In addition, maintaining your ability to earn money at least to some degree eases the fear of transition potentially allowing such changes years earlier. It can help with late life surprises like the financial shifts of 2008. Simultaneously you can volunteer your efforts in this and any other aspect of your life as you wish.
Maintaining mental efforts is important. Your mental processing speed adjusts to how you use it. Keeping mentally active in meaningful relationships allows you to maintain your ability to come up with novel solutions built upon life-long learning. This mental processing will expand to other relationships in your life as you strive to be a better spouse, family member and friend.
Importance of Social Life
Your social life will largely define your happiness. At 98, my mother-in-law was a delight and we deeply enjoyed being with her. One day she gave me her secret. She said, “Michael, I know you like being with me and do you know why? It’s because I have a life. If every time we were together we talked about your life and my bowel movements, you would get bored.” She believed everyone needed to maintain at least three “in boxes” to make and maintain friendships.
She went on to say, “People are always dying or moving away and eventually either you or your spouse is going to die, so prepare now, for both of you.” Church groups, bird watching groups, retired military groups, bowling leagues, political organizations, travel clubs, lunch bunch groups, animal rescue organizations, reading groups, volunteer coaching, library groups and volunteer groups like “Meals on Wheels” and “Habitat for Humanity” would all meet criteria for one of her “inboxes”.
Adjust Your Spending
We are spending time with my sister-in-law, Carol this week and I am writing down this last consideration as I sit in her backyard, overlooking the ocean in Solana Beach, California. Last night, at the yearly Laguna Beach “Pageant of the Master’s Art Festival” she told me, “You can financially prepare all you want but you have to learn to adjust your spending”.
As with many life transitions, you have saved, “done without” or simply not had time to do many of the things you now want to do. This is a bit of a set up as you are involving yourself in new activities; long awaited vacations, changes in housing and evenings out with friends and family. In short order you may find yourself making decisions that your new budget can’t sustain. You may have incorporated a budget while working but now it’s time to get out your “Quicken Home and Business” budgeting tool. The peace of mind it provides during this time of transition is invaluable and the money you save ... not bad either!