My retirement was highly anticipated and poorly prepared. I had done due diligence on the financial side of things, but I had just vague assumptions about what life would be like if I didn’t have to work everyday. I was too busy working to really figure out what I was retiring TO! And I’m sure I’m not alone in this regard.
Recently a number of IRL friends who are still working have articulated the possibility of retiring soon. And commented they are looking towards me to be their role model. Oh dear, I certainly do not want them to be poorly prepared! Days after retirement, everything I knew about daily living was gone. Yes, no more pre-dawn alarm clocks; no more endless, mind-numbing meetings; and no more office politics. But also no more regular connections with stimulating conversation and no more feeling of accomplishment for hitting project milestones.
- I did not have a plan for being socially connected when 75% of my social connections disappeared because they were work affiliated.
- I did not have a solid plan on getting physically fit, having no pre-retirement fitness/exercise program. And everything you read (and know to be true), is about move it or lose it.
- I did not even have a plan for staying mentally sharp, although everyone assumed I would simply keep working doing consulting in my field.
Post-work life did not just happen. I had to “do the work” to create a new life plan – because I was an expert on how to work, but I wasn’t very sure about how to live a life. Figuring out what I wanted my daily, weekly, monthly and yearly life to be took time.
- I had to learn that it’s less about what you want to do (and having a plethora of activities booked) and more about who you want to be (and understanding what’s truly important). Was I engaging in the right activities for me – the ones that bring me joy and fulfillment?
- I had to learn relationship-building skills to form a new village of connections – from casual conversations to extended-family support.
- I needed to create new habits for exercise and mobility – things to get me off the couch every day.
- I needed to be patient. Learning this (emotional) stuff, creating new habits, building relationships – all takes time.
I learned that a 21st Century Retirement Life is whatever you want it to be. That everyone’s is different, and figuring out what is truly important to you, and not based on someone else’s “you should” or assumptions, takes time and self-discovery. It took visioning, planning, and then refining the vision and the plan.
What is my advice to soon-to-be retirees? (Yes, L and R and K and T, this means you!) Do some pre-planning beyond the finances. Think about what is important to you and how you will replace the aspects of work life. Not the endless meetings or office politics. But work often provides camaraderie and social connections; a sense of accomplishment, purpose and identity; and even a structure to your days and weeks. What are your (detailed) assumptions of what a day, week, and month will be in retirement?
And, even with a plan to ease into retirement life, realize that this is probably one of the biggest changes of your life, so allow the stages of transition to occur. Understand you might need to let go of some things – perhaps some long-held beliefs or some long-standing habits? Understand there is a period of uncertainty when things have ended and others might not have started; when you need to just let it be. Be willing to adjust the plan (pre-plan or post-work plan) as life happens and you get new learning from real life experiences.
My 21st Century Retirement Life is still a work in progress. Learning to be true to myself, and not to other’s expectations, continues to be a work in progress as well. I continue to refine my vision, and re-work the activities in my daily, weekly and monthly calendar to match that vision. I’m looking forward to a big revision in the next month as a major milestone is achieved (our downsizing move!).
Do you have a vision for your own unique 21st Century Retirement Life?
Picture: my own — Serengeti Sunrise, 2017