You’re focused on that big day, the day you retire. It’s something that you have been thinking about and planning for years now. You even have a “pre-retirement” checklist drawn up so you can get to your destination with ease. Well, maybe you do and maybe you don’t actually have it all written down and planned, but if I were to ask you, you’d probably say you did. But whether you have it all planned out and written down or not, there is usually one great big hole in just about everyone’s retirement plans and that is this: What are you going to do the day after you retire?
Out of all the items that appear on your real or make believe pre-retirement checklist, having something to do after your retirement might be the most neglected item of them all.
Your focus on getting to your destination may have been all-consuming and when that happens, it’s a lot like climbing a mountain – you want to get to the top so badly that you claw your way up and persevere until you become the Sir Edmund Hillary of your work world and reach that pinnacle, retirement day! But just like the song says, there’s got to be a morning after!
Since I’m on a roll here, let me quote another song lyric.
Before retiring, you must really think things through. You can’t just say to yourself that you will be traveling the world, writing the next great novel, or playing golf every day. But will you? You say yes, and I say perhaps no.
Specific dates and deadlines should be made, a timetable if you will, and a plan.
Like everything you have ever done that turned into a success in life, a plan is essential. Hopefully, it was a useful tool you used to retire with, didn’t you? So now what would be the reason you stopped planning? Not getting up to the sound of an alarm clock that reads 6 a.m. every day to shower, shave, and commute isn’t a reason to not have a plan!
If you don’t have specific retirement plans for what you will do post-retirement, I promise you will feel lost. I can testify to that from experience.
You may have feelings of depression without a plan or you might even sit and stare out a window and say to yourself, “What’s the meaning of life?” Boredom, depression, and every day may actually turn into and feel like Sunday.
The Retirement Life Nobody Likes to Talk About
There are two major kinds of retirement that dominate the work world these days.
The first one is the kind where you work until you’re old and if you make it, you get a gold watch and a small going away good luck party from the gang at the office.
This is the way I grew up and frankly, it has been the way that generations have grown up including my mom and dad, and their moms and dads. Even old baseball players (the kind I always wanted to be) sometimes make it to that day like the ones who play for a team for 20 years and then make the grand tour around the league accepting gifts and accolades from their adoring fans. Sounds so good, doesn’t it, but what happens the day after that?
And Then There’s Early Retirement
Early retirement (also known by the acronym FIRE) is the goal today of a new retirement hopeful. It sounds great and it is great for the most part. But there are also negatives of early retirement life that need to be discussed. Let me give you a glimpse of the early retirement lifestyle I have heard about. But first, the song lyrics again. Here’s a little ditty I have whipped up based on the Sinead O’ Connor hit from the 1990’s, “Nothing Compares 2 U”.
Sing this instead:
It’s been a year since they took my paycheck away. I sometimes stay up all night and sleep all day. At least I can do whatever I want and seek professional help from whomever I choose.
Gourmet sushi at fancy restaurants tastes so good. But sitting alone mixing wasabi can’t take away those occasional blues. Because, nothing compares, nothing compares to the camaraderie of you, my dear old ex-colleagues!
OK, I truly apologize for that terrible rewrite, but you get my point.
My Retirement – “Too Old to Rock and Roll and Too Young to Die”
I retired in 2012 at the age of 62. But my retirement doesn’t quite fit in either of the two previously mentioned retirement plans. I was too old for early retirement and too young for being at the end of line. I didn’t have my plan in place and ready to go for retirement. Poor health will do that to you every time.
I have no idea how many people have to “retire” the way I did, but I can say it isn’t any fun or a great way to go.
When Retirement Feels Unnatural
Having a heart attack and suffering a long recovery can change your perspective on life pretty quickly. For about two years I was sick and bored and I felt pretty useless in retirement. I wasn’t doing anything I thought I would be doing. In some cases I just couldn’t, but in many ways I was still as sharp as ever. So after a forced retirement at 62, I “unretired” at 66.
That’s when I decided that Super Saving Tips would be a new love interest just behind my wonderful wife, Suzanne! (“Sorry Suzanne”)
It proved to me that while there may be glamour in an early retirement, there are also plenty of negatives which you discover. I certainly did.
I now know why we crave reverting back to our baseline state of happiness—having a sense of purpose and fulfillment—and that stays with you no matter how much freedom and money you may have.
When you’ve spent years working in a profession, you find it incredibly jolting to no longer wake up and be identified as the person who was that expert professional, the go-to guy who could figure out how to solve problems every day. It’s only after you leave your job that you truly realize how wound up you were in your profession.
Retirement and Identity Crisis 101
After retirement, you can suffer an identity crisis that may last as short as a few months or even last for years. It all depends on how wrapped up you were in your job and what, if any, actual plans you’ve made for post-retirement, not to mention how well you can actually do and fulfill any of them.
If you are fortunate enough to have a life partner, it’s important to share you retirement plans with them. Ideally, both of you are on board with retiring. And both of you share with each other specific activities you want to do once work ends. The last thing you want is to force your post-work activities onto your partner.
Communicate clearly about your respective plans. Going from spending 3-4 hours a day with each other to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week can be too much to handle for anyone.
It’s much harder to be retired, ill, and living through a pandemic. That’s especially if you are forced to be inside most of the time. It’s like a triple threat, but not in the good way. For me to stay inside for long periods of time is just unnatural, or at least it was for the first 60-something years of my life. The desire for fresh air and sunshine is one of the reasons we get up in the morning, isn’t it?
That’s why you can’t let retirement make you sit inside and stare out the window. You still need a plan of action and to actually do something. It’s in the DNA and thankfully I came to that realization before it was too late.
It wasn’t about only money for me, although that’s a great reason to have a plan for sure. It was about a sense of purpose and I need that as much as anything else, including the money and the security it brings. You will come to realize that too and hopefully that day will be long before you retire. So be sure to formulate those retirement plans sooner rather than later.
Are you ready to retire now? Are you 30? Are you 50? Are you 67 or older? Whatever your age, the question remains: What will you do the day after you retire?