“Preparation for old age should begin not later than one’s teens. A life which is empty of purpose until 65 will not suddenly become filled on retirement.”
The Sundays. Not the alternative rock band. The feeling of blah that you get on Sundays when you know you have to go to work on Monday. Even those of us who love what we do sometimes get that knot in the stomach on Sundays when thinking about returning to work. After all, you could be treating Sundays like every other day of the week if you were retired. My parents like to brag about the ability to catch the early bird specials in restaurants and not have to fight weekend crowds on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, referring to my wife and me as the “working stiffs.”
It’s what you dream about, right? What could possibly wreck your retirement dreams? You’re saving appropriately; you have diversified your investments properly. You should be set. All you need is to keep on course and the day after the company throws you a retirement party, all will be roses and rainbows!
Just retiring isn’t enough!
You retire, and you spend the first week simply sleeping in. You start to do the “honey-dos” that had piled up for years like dishes in a college kid’s sink. You go to dinner at 4 PM and revel in the empty restaurant and the lack of crowds.
This lifestyle continues for a while, and then you start to notice something. It’s not really obvious at first, but then it starts nagging you, and you finally put your finger on it. You’re starting to get bored. Every day during your working career, you got up, you got ready, and you went to work. You had something to do, and somewhere to go to. In retirement, you don’t have that sense of purpose. You start to wonder if you’re going to spend the rest of your days glued to the couch watching endless episodes of Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz.
How did you get to that point? You retired away from something rather than to something. Retirement shouldn’t be an escape. If you’re viewing retirement as an escape, then you’re in the wrong job in the first place. Retirement should be an opportunity for you to spend your time doing the things that are important and productive for you.
Retirement isn’t the same as graduation, where everybody reaches their goal at the same time, has a big ceremony, throws their caps, and then goes off into the world. Chances are that a few of your colleagues and friends will retire at the same time as you, which, in itself will cause some changes. Your friends are probably still working, so you quickly find yourself disconnected from a social network. While you can go to the restaurant at 4 PM and avoid the crowds, your friends probably can’t. So, you have to find activities to do that are meaningful to you and to keep you interested and engaged.
Discovering what those activities are shouldn’t be something that you start to discover only after your days as a wage earner are in the rearview mirror. Finding the activities that provide meaning in life will serve two purposes. First, they will give you meaning now and in the future, giving you more fulfillment and happiness. Secondly, they will give you a goal and a target for what you want to do with your time when you are retired, giving you more motivation. Spend $30,000 on that fast new car and delay retirement for a year, or sock it away and get to spend more time doing the things that are important to you? Having a goal of retiring to something will allow you to keep focus and perspective as you make decisions along the way which will lead to your retirement.
If you don’t like the active, more engaged life in retirement, Dr. Phil will always be there.
What do you want to retire to? Join in the conversation below!