Did you know that retirement is perhaps the biggest transition you will ever experience? It is! After decades of meaningful work, often prestigious titles and significant salaries, baby boomers are now transitioning from the well-understood world of work to a new chapter in their lives, often referred to as the “encore” or retirement years. These individuals are often finding themselves without a compass and into an unfamiliar place of unstructured time and less-than-meaningful activities that fill up space. Stripped of a career and one’s identity with work, many baby boomers are finding themselves left in the lurch, having to say goodbye to the old as they try to discover a new way of living with newly discovered independence and purpose. The reality of retirement doesn’t quite match one’s ideal fantasy about retirement. So, what happened when planning for retirement? It is feasible we believed several myths that we wanted to believe. Here are three to scrap when planning for your retirement:
Myth #1: Your Life will be Fantastic When You Retire
Yes, your life can be fantastic when you retire. But the reality is if your life isn’t fantastic before you retire, it won’t be when you retire. We are bombarded with glossy brochures and social media images of retirement communities, travel opportunities, and wine festivals, that we often drink the Kool-Aid. We want to believe our lives will mimic what we are seeing all around us, images of smiling retirees on cruises and world tours, with a drink in their hands embracing a group of gray-headed unidentifiable characters. This Is not to say retirement isn’t this amazing time where you can re-invent yourself, help others, build a home, travel the world, or see your children and grandchildren succeed. The reality is that this isn’t the case for most retirees. The average pre-retiree and retiree is at least 25 pounds overweight, feels tired some of the time, and is moderately depressed about something. Often, he or she has low self-esteem in one or two areas of life, may not have adequate financial means, and overall lead pretty plain lives. Life is often not really fantastic. It is life.
Myth #2: Moving to a More Desirable Geographic Location Is the Answer
With realtors in hand, individuals often move to more desirable and less expensive geographic locations upon retirement. Many pre-retirees dream of a slower pace of life in a more tranquil area, or a life of outdoor living on a boat and close to the water. And while moving is exciting and stimulating, with the relocation comes another set of challenges. You live out the truism, “Wherever you go, there you are.” You quickly find out that your needs for community, purpose, and connectedness become aching desires that need to be met, in this new location. You now find yourself trying to meet new people, establishing yourself in your new community, and identifying a purpose in your newly unstructured life. Some people can do this easily; others find this very difficult. Some communities are more welcoming; others don’t want to embrace new people into their well-established way of living.
Myth #3: You Will Have So Much Time on Your Hands
No longer tied to a job and with much freedom, you would think retirees would have a lot of time to do what they want to do. The reality is that most retirees find themselves making sacrifices in the name of family, church, or community, doing tasks that don’t really light them up. They get into the habit of volunteering long hours, but now for no pay. Many find themselves stepping in to help their children raise their grandchildren, sacrificing other pursuits that could bring them joy and satisfaction. And while it is wonderful to be of service, many retirees feel a guilty sense of obligation to others and forfeit deep-seated longings in doing so. They find out pretty quickly there really isn’t a lot of free time!
So, how can a pre-retiree or retiree avoid these pitfalls and not fall prey to these myths? What’s compelling is that the average 65-year-old woman can expect to live until age 87, and the average 65-year-old man can expect to live to age 84. It’s the equivalent of another adulthood! But, as Scila Elworthy, Nobel Peace Prize nominee states about this chapter of our lives, "This is the season to know every thought and every action is sacred." It is a time to embrace the changes one has endured and is going through, discover a meaningful purpose, and love the life we have been given. It is the time to unleash creative talents and to tame condemning inner villains that have been simmering for decades.
Julie Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way and It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond encourages us to live one day at a time fully present and in the moment. The past is finished; the future is not yet here. It is a time of reflection and sometimes intense inner work, being true to oneself and understanding one’s story. We must be willing to let go of the past so we can accept the life that is waiting for us. It requires strength and intention to make life worth living as we leave a legacy or a memoir in art or in words or in teachings to others. We realize the glamourized images of happy travelers are truly fake. We find our way by tapping into our God-given talents and gifts and stepping onward into our encore years with greater self-awareness, a sense of purpose, and a deeper love for life. We realize it does get better with age, but we have to throw away most of our travel brochures first.
To your success now and in the future!
Your Transition Coach for Career & Life
A professional and certified Transition Coach, and a retired resident in a small town from the suburbs, who inspires individuals to be the best they can be so they can give their best to the world.