A Satisfying Retirement isn't a reality for everyone who is ready to retire, or close enough to dream about it in great detail. Readers of this blog know I am a firm believer in the fabulous opportunities for personal growth and passion fulfillment of this stage of life. But, I have openly admitted I struggled during the first few years, and even now almost 14 years into it, have periods of doubt and frustration.
Without rehashing everything that can cause problems, I put together this simplified list of seven things that can cause an unsatisfying retirement, at least for a period of time:
1. Not ready..still enjoying work. Not everyone wants to retire when society seems to tell us it is time. For many it isn't even about wanting to add to retirement savings. it is the personal satisfaction and challenges. As long as what you do to earn money satisfies you and is in harmony with the rest of your life, it isn't time for retirement.
2. No replacement for place of work in life. This is the opposite of the situation above. Retirement sounds great and you are ready, but you have nothing to come home to. You have never developed interests or passions away from the office or job site. Without something to stimulate you in this way, retirement will only cause frustration.
3. Unrealistic expectations. If you believe no more work means no more responsibilities or complications you will be disappointed. If your savings are more appropriate for long weekends in the nearest state park but you think you are entitled to a world cruise, there are problems ahead.
4. Fear and Worry. The opposite concern is to worry about every penny you spend or to live in fear that your planning was not sufficient. Financial pitfalls don't stop just because you don't work, but to focus on them will make for an unhappy existence.
5. Poor time management. When folks retire, many over-commitment themselves to projects, goals, volunteer work, and travel plans. Others suddenly realize the day is still 24 hours long and you are responsible for filling it. Either approach usually results in an unsatisfying experience.
6. Entered unprepared financially and emotionally. Just because the calendar says you are retirement age, doesn't mean you can. As this blog has pointed out time and time again, there is a real requirement that you enter this new phase of your life well prepared.
7. Looking at others' lives. Retirement is a unique journey. How mine has unfolded will not be like yours. While I hope my experiences can help you make the best decisions, eventually your life will assume a direction that is right for you. Just like it is counterproductive to envy someone's bigger home or newer car, trying to match a retirement lifestyle you read about in a magazine or hear about from a friend will not make you happy.
Every one of the seven pitfalls I have listed is avoidable. Each simply takes some effort, a fresh perspective, and an honest appraisal of your situation, needs, and desires.
You can do it. You will do it.