The first sale of stock by a private company to the public. IPOs are often issued by smaller, younger companies seeking the capital to expand.
After being happy I hadn't decided to join the frenzy over Facebook's initial stock sale, it occurred to me that the beginning of our satisfying retirement is very much like a company issuing an IPO. We are at that point in our life when we must step out from the safety net of a job and our life as we have known it. We are ready to take a giant step into the unknown.
Though some company IPO's start off hot and do nothing but go up, most are more like what happened to Facebook. There is all sorts of excitement about the upcoming event, with lots of hype and well wishes. The big day comes...and things fizzle a bit and fall short of expectations. Overall, most IPOs, Facebook probably included, will find their footing, figure out what is causing investor hesitancy, and start to see an increase in the stock's price. But, there are some stumbles along the way.
Our retirement often has the same path. There is excitement and all sorts of expectations of what the end of our work life with be like. Investors (family & friends) encourage us. Blogs (!) and books tell us this will be a tremendously fulfilling time of life. We expect an immediate payback on our planning and dreams.
Not so fast. Facebook got a strong reality check the first day of its IPO. Retirees usually have a honeymoon period of several weeks, months, even years before reality rears its head. But, our IPO will transition into our own personal SPO (secondary public offering). That is when we face the future without the rose-colored glasses. We understand the retirement journey is not all happiness and ice cream. There are a lot of adjustments and hard work ahead.
No matter how well we have prepared, the world isn't required to follow our wishes. In fact, it often seems as though the world is snubbing us on purpose. While I doubt that is true, we must realize retirement is pretty much our ship to steer. If it runs around, we must figure out how to re-float our boat. If, heaven forbid, it sinks, we must learn a new way to get to our destination. Blaming the world or other people usually won't work. Our SPO is ours. The stock market owed Facebook nothing more than a shot. If Facebook struggles then so be it. If we struggle, then that's the way it is.
The good news is that most of us figure it out. We adjust our expectations to our reality. We bring the high-flying projections more in line with what really is both possible and makes us happy. Our "investors" help us, encourage us, support us, and stick with us.
Our unrealistic IPO, our sometimes shaky SPO, becomes a SRO (satisfying retirement opportunity).