Just imagine for a few moments the following retirement scenario
You are in work for your very last day. Some forty or fifty years of working behind you and now your retirement is imminent. Your fellow work colleagues are congratulating you and saying that they are envious of you because of the all the spare time you are going to have. Exotic holidays will follow and all that freedom to do whatever you want. Your dues have bee paid and now it is your time. Off into the sunset you go to a lifetime of leisure with all good wishes from work colleagues and friends. You must be so happy?
But wait a minute a nagging feeling is dawning on you because you really you have no idea of what you are going to do in retirement? You have never really given it much thought. How are you going to fill your days? What is going to make you get out of bed every morning with a spring in your step? What will be my purpose in life? How will this affect my marriage? Will I lose touch with my friends at work?
Now you start to realise that you have never really planned what you are going to do in retirement and you may be living for another 30 years or so! In fact, over the years you probably spent more time planning your 2 weeks’ vacation every year rather than planning for what is probably going to be a considerable chunk of your life.
Now you may be having overriding feelings of doubt and apprehension about retirement.
You are beginning to wonder if you really should retire. If you stay on at work you can postpone the decision off to another time in the future. Perhaps your mind is filled with visions of people you know who like you made no planning for a retirement. You have seen how lonely and depressed they have become as their lives have no purpose or meaning. Perhaps you remember the retirement of your grandparents? They bought into the lifestyle of the past in that once you retired that was it. A lifestyle solely of leisure would follow that soon for many became tedious, soulless and meaningless. You watched the life-force drain from your grandparents as they followed the then accepted traditional way of retirement. You then remember reading in the paper about the significant rise in “the grey divorce” rates. Couples who struggle to deal with retirement without purpose and the prospects of spending another 30 years together.
Retirement is changing
The good news is that you can avoid a scenario like this as the way society is approaching retirement is changing in a way full of possibilities and opportunities. We are after all generally retiring earlier, healthier and living longer. Life expectancy has risen 30 years for people in the western world in the past 100 years as the advancement in medicine and nutrition takes effect. 1900 the average life expectancy was 47 years and now it is around 80 years and that is likely to increase further.
The impact of the “Boomers”
We are at present amid the so called “Boomer” generation coming in to retirement and in the UK alone 2000 people a day are retiring. In the USA, it is 10000 people a day who are retiring. These “Boomers” are not accepting the old traditional retirement ethos. They are creating a new retirement, where they may be pursuing new careers, interests and hobbies. Sitting on the couch watching endless hours of television is not for them. They still believe that they can achieve great things, make their mark on their communities or the world at large and reinvent the future of retirement for us all and why not? They still have so much to give via their skill-sets, experience, mentoring capabilities, better health and longevity.
The key is the “Replacement of work function”
Until recent times retirement planning was basically all focused on the financial aspect however there are many facets that need to be covered to ensure that you have a successful and happy retirement including financial, leisure & social, relationships, family, health and wellness etc.
One of the most important key areas and one that is frequently ignored by new retirees is that of the “Work Replacement Function”.
Dr Richard P Johnson Ph.D. of retirementoptions.com, who is an expert in the field of retirement and adult development, points out that our work gives us 5 key benefits and they are
We received a wage from our work. In retirement our financial means will have to be met by other means. Such as pensions, social security, part time or consulting work.
Our work gave our lives structure and we basically knew what we would be doing each week. We need to find ways to replace that structure in retirement and use our time constructively
Sense of utility (purpose)
Work meant we had meaning in our life and gave us a cause. In retirement, we must find new purpose to satisfy our need for self-esteem.
Gave us a role in society. A sense of personal worth and identity. How will we create a new identity in retirement?
Our work brought us into contact with many people and we may have derived our main friendships from our work group. In retirement, we may leave we may lose contact with our main social group from our employment. We may need to find new ways to socialise.
These 5 functions have become such a part of our lives that they have raised themselves to the level of needs.
Dr Richard Johnson says “The five work benefits/needs do not go away simply because we retire. They have become a part of us to such a degree that we cannot simply discard them without some emotional psychological and even spiritual consequences”
We all probably know of people who were so engrossed in their work that when they eventually did retire they became lost, without purpose and eventually they emotionally crashed. The fact is that we all have a need to feel useful, purposeful, contributing and connected and our work is a major provider of this. The need really does not disappear for us in retirement as these drives our self-worth and self-image. In retirement, we must find a different way than we did previously of satisfying all these work functions.
Failure to do this may eventually lead to a wearing away of the individual and thus harm the emotional and psychological well-being.
A study by the Institute of Economic Affairs in 2013 says that retirement increases the probability of suffering from clinical depression by about 40%.
How to replace the work function?
The most important aspect here is to have some sort of plan for your retirement. I am not talking about the cursory thoughts that most people give to the subject . I am talking about real deep and thoughtful planning into a chapter of your life that may hopefully last 20-30 years.
Yes, your retirement could last this long and maybe even further? If you plan properly these could be the most the most enriching and rewarding years of your life. Where you are free to chase those dreams that you put on hold in your working years.
These are some of the quality questions that you should be asking yourself well before your retirement.
“What will be your daily routine in retirement?”
“How will you manage your time? Will you have new goals and personal objectives?”
“How will you replace your status and find your new purpose in retirement”
“Have you taken care of your financial needs. If not, how will you meet them?”
“How is your retirement going to impact your relationship and your family?”
You may conclude that you wish to remain in your current employment or seek another exciting career in a field where you have always wanted to work. Part time, casual or voluntary work may fulfil your needs of status and purpose. Perhaps this is the time to start that business that you always wanted to try. Maybe write that book that you have been putting off for more years than you care to remember. Maybe any type work is not really an option for you and you just want to travel extensively to see the world.
Whatever path you choose you are going to have to meet and replace the emotional needs that work previously gave you. The best way is to really make that effort to plan your retirement. Consider setting goals and objectives for this period of your life. You probably did for most of your working life. Give yourself the best chance of a rewarding and successful retirement.
I would suggest that It may be a good idea to consult with a retirement transition coach like myself dereklifecoaching.com to help you focus on the non-financial critical aspects of retirement. Because part of a successful retirement is having the insight, tools and resources to renew and recreate yourself for the next part of your life journey.