February 21, 2007

We Work, We Plan & We Strive For This?

I remember when my folks retired. They had it all figured out; they moved from their Pennsylvania home to a nice little gated community on the Gulf Coast of Florida. They stopped working and planned to spend their time enjoying the better weather, the new activities and social events with each other and the friends they made along the way. The result: It didn’t work out as planned.

With Baby Boomers entering their freedom years, we are going to be hearing a lot of this: The retirement transition is a huge one and some people are ill-prepared to adjust to it. This isn’t about funding or investing strategies during retirement, that’s a component within itself; it’s simply how you want to live the rest of your life. Some examples of transitions:

-The small business owner who sold out: When you sell out on the belief that this is what you are “supposed to do?” The pay-off may be a nice dose of quick exuberance, but it can fade quickly. The responsibilities and relationships that you had to your customers, employees and to your vendors: Where is that now?

-The corporate executive: One day you are the big shot, the next day you get the gold watch, the following day? It’s going from “Big Shot” to “Joe Schmoe.” Think about the loss of power and control you once had. If you don’t have something to fall back on, this can be a very empty after-match.

-“I’m going to golf”: Some people lose the challenge that work provides them and look to the golf gods to save them. The sad irony is that in some cases, golf becomes work. If your handicap becomes a chore, you have some issues.

-Re-discovering your spouse: As we grow older, we change. Between the craziness of raising children and focusing on careers, we forget to recognize that you and your better half changed. Once you decide to stop working and the kids are out of the house, all of a sudden you are going to have to face each other again. In a recent discussion with Ray Inglesi, who developed Core Themes™, a life-career planning program. He felt in the coming years, we will see a high rate of divorce with individuals entering their initial retirement years.

-The means, but not the end: I’ve met many individuals who were highly dedicated to funding their retirement when they initially met me. The problem is that they spent little or no time thinking about what they want to do when they get there. They probably have spent more time figuring out their next vacation rather than their future. It’s almost like we are hardwired to forget about tomorrow to take care of today’s business. Over the years we forget about our true values and interests we had when we were young and you almost need to rediscover them when we retire.

The lesson is that this transition can leave a significant void in your life. Many times I have asked individuals, “How do you want to live the rest of your life?” And they had no idea how to answer the question. They either have to think long to answer it or simply shrug their shoulders and say, “I don’t know.” There is one thing you should get out of this is: take the time to think about yourself and what you are going to accomplish today, tomorrow, the next day and the day after that. It is critical that you revisit this for your long term well being. I spend several hours each month thinking about what I want out of life and what I can be doing to get closer to living a better life.

My parents, they ended up figuring it out. My mother, the former self employed cornice maker had a big problem with the change. With nothing to do, she climbed the walls and my father was the victim. Meanwhile my father totally embraced the change. The entrepreneur started up her business again. She totally enjoys the interaction, the challenge, and the fulfillment and she will be 78 years young at year end. My father is much happier as well! Meanwhile, my mother in law has been retired for seven years now. And from day one, she has said, “I don’t know how I ever had the time to work.” Go figure, but you better figure this out before the day comes.

Posted by Jeff Bogue at 07:52 AM

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