When it comes to retirement, ignorance is not bliss.
“The majority of people know they need to prepare financially, but until they actually retire or are on the verge of it, it doesn’t occur to them that money is not the only form of preparation,” says John E. Nelson, coauthor of What Color is Your Parachute? For Retirement. “They don’t know they might have a sense of loss — of identity, of purpose. They just blunder on thinking they are going on a 20-year vacation, and it is only afterward they say, “Oh, wait a minute. I need to make some changes.” Those changes require work. Nelson provides some guidance with these steps.
The traditional or generational view of retirement was that the absence of work was its own reward, says Nelson. “But so many people now work in jobs that are not grindingly physical and tiring, and they get to retirement age and instead of being worn out, they are just burned out. They don’t truly need leisure, they just need a change.”
View Anxiety as a Good Thing
“It means you are actually going to have an opportunity to make some preparations in advance and you have a whole bunch of compatriots who are clueless,” he says.
Create a New Life Map
Instead of trying to solve a specific problem like financial insecurity or loss of work friendships, attack the issues globally. “What you need to say is, ‘I need a new vision and what are the parts of that vision? What will life look like?’ — and then start putting those pieces together.”
Repurpose Your Skills
If you were a staff member or a manager, what gave you fulfillment and a sense of pride? “Those underlying skills and strengths you have been using 40 hours a week, you still have them — you have just been using them at work,” says Nelson. Put names and labels on your strengths and figure out a new forum to showcase those abilities. “You may put them to work in your family or in your neighborhood, in a part-time job or volunteering…. You might be good at organizing and managing things or creative at problem-solving — but whatever [those talents] are, they are unique to you.”
Accentuate the Positive
But what if you hated your job? Dig deep and find some good stuff. “You are now freed from this slavery of the workplace,” says Nelson. “What are the lifelong interests or passions — skills that you have had — that you can fully develop? Even if you feel like you didn’t like your job at all, the clues are still possibly in that job.” Forget the 80 percent [that was miserable] and focus “on the 20 percent that made you come alive.”