When I retired, a few well-meaning individuals informed me that the ideal retirement lifestyle for “someone like me” was 30/30/30. Meaning: 30% of my time focused on work, 30% of my time focused on volunteering, and 30% of my time focused on leisure. Simple as that – go do it. Besides the fact it didn’t feel right, it’s taken me a while to realize that there are 2 strong myths associated with not only that 30/30/30 “ideal”, but retirement in general.
So here are two myth busters:
Myth #1: All retirees these days need to work.
This “need to work” is a double-edged myth. Unfortunately, the need to work is a financial reality for many retirees who need the supplemental income (or health benefits) that working in their retirement years generates. Interestingly, that is not the “someone like me” who saved intensively and meets the FIRE profile (Financially Independent, Retired Early – even though I wasn’t aware of this term while doing it!)
The other side of this myth is that working can be a lifestyle choice – work can satisfy a whole bunch of other needs. Someone entering the retirement life stage does need to understand what needs are truly important to them – this happens with some intense self-reflection. Working in retirement might be a part of their total life portfolio to fill these needs that go beyond financial:
- Status and Identity. In your previous life stage, work probably provided you with a significant portion of your status and identity. How will you create identity in this next life stage? I’ve spoken to some retirees that had to simultaneously deal with losing work identity and “parent” identity as their adult children truly left them as empty nesters. Working in retirement might be your best solution for filling this “Who Am I?” need, but it’s not the only option.
- Achievement & Utility. Again, work life was often the primary source of feelings of achievement and being “needed”. If this is a value-based need moving forward, what in your total life portfolio will help fill it? Is working for compensation really the best option?
- Social Affiliation. I have pointed out to many people that when I stopped full-time work, I lost 90% of my “regular” connections. My husband just could not fill all my daily people interaction needs. Understanding what your relationship profile looks like entering retirement and what you want it to look like could mean work is a critical going-forward solution. By relationship profile I mean: professional relationships, social friends, spouse/significant other, and family.
- Time Management. Working provided structure; it dictated when to wake up, when to eat, when to run errands, where to be at what time of the day. And while many a retiree will say “I never want to have a schedule again”, people do need to have a sense of a daily schedule and will, whether written or unwritten, have one. Some people need more time management than others. (I need quite a bit.) Working in retirement can help someone craft a self-controlled schedule that makes a total life portfolio flow.
The work or not to work question really requires an individual to understand his/her own needs. And then to consider whether working is the best option to meet those needs.
And the reality (breaking the myth – got to it finally) is all retirees do not work! Recent surveys are consistent, so I’ll just quote a couple. Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies report in 2015 indicates that while 54% of those 50+ have stated they plan to work at least part time in retirement (perhaps believing the myth), the numbers don’t play out – only 5% of actual retirees are working (even part time). And a CareerBuilder survey has that number at 25%. Not even a majority.
So, no, all retirees do not need to work, nor do all retirees work (even part time). The best part of retirement is figuring out what is best for you!
Myth #2: All retirees these days volunteer.
While there is a significant amount of research that points of the positive benefits of volunteering (as well as the positive benefits of exercise, meditation, social interaction, and even sleeping enough!), in fact most retires do not volunteer. The same Transamerica study had (only) 24% of retirees doing regular volunteer work.
Adding volunteering to a retirement life stage portfolio of activities can be great if it’s matched up with an individual’s needs, values and interests. Volunteer work could in fact satisfy some of the same needs that working for compensation can – identity & status, accomplishment & utility, social affiliation and/or time management!
So having broken these myths, are working and volunteering in my life portfolio of activities right now? Yes and no.
Instead of the 30/30/30 plan that was idealized for me, I have a “quarter plan” – 25% of my time on relationship development, 25% of my time on being active and fit, 25% of my time on learning and having fun, and 25% of my time on compensation-based work.
Will this balance change as retirement life progresses? Probably! But that is the freedom of retirement – being able to choose among all the possibilities what is right for you and not have to live the myths.
What myths are you busting in your own reality of retirement?
Picture Credit: Pixabay