April 10, 2014

Do You Lack The Necessary Skills To Retire?


How's that for an enticing headline? Nothing like a little guilt or uneasiness to grab someone's attention. Well, I am going to relieve your fear or anxiety right away: retirement skills are no different from the skills that got you this far in life. There is nothing so special about this phase of your life that you must relearn how to react and cope. There is nothing so special that you have to worry about "failing" retirement.

Retirement is simply a less-than-adequate word for a time in your life when you are freer to use your unique combination of life experiences, skills, talents, and personality to craft an existence that satisfies you.

This isn't meant to imply retirement is without difficulties. There are many of us who struggle with the transition from work. It is quite common to think you have made a serious mistake and disaster awaits. Adjusting your relationships to this new lifestyle takes work and compromise. You may have to learn to downsize your expectations to be in line with your financial realities.

But, the important point I want to make is that retirement doesn't require you to go back to school, to get an advanced degree or to study night and day so you can pass the test. You already passed the important "tests" that life may have thrown at you. You have overcome adversity, some heartache, some disappointments, and some failures.

Still not convinced? OK, here are the "special skills" required to have a satisfying retirement:

1) You have figured out how to keep yourself alive and functioning in a complicated and dangerous world. You may not be a financial wizard, but you have a place to live, you know how to pay your bills, you can put gas in your car, you file a tax return (you are ready, right?), and you don't respond to an e-mail from Nigeria telling you how to claim a $1 million prize.



2)  You have relationships with other human beings. You may or may not be married, may be in a long term relationship, may be solo by choice or circumstances. Regardless, you interact with others on a regular basis.


3) Given some free time, you don't panic about what to do with it. You pick something. How you choose to fill that chuck of time may not satisfy you for a long time. So, then you choose to do something else. The point is, you don't just sit in a corner and worry what to do or whether it is your life's passion. You just do something.


4) You know that eating a Big Mac with fries for every dinner is not healthy. You know that not getting up off the couch for days at a time will lead to trouble. You understand that your body is a complex mechanism that requires care and proper feeding to carry you to the finish line.


5) You realize you are going to die at some point. You aren't happy about it, but you can't do a thing about it, so you make peace with it and live what life you have left. If you lean toward spiritual beliefs you have some type of faith in what comes next. If a spiritual thought has never entered you mind you still think occasionally what happens when you die - and then you think about something else. You don't obsess about it.


And, there you go. That's it. If you have managed to grasp these five "skills" so far, then you are good to go. Retirement is just a part of life. It is a different part of life, just like adolescence is different from being young and newly married. Being 30 is different from being 60. Being male is different from being female (oh my, yes).


Retirement is just part of your journey. I would argue it is the best part, but that is just me.




30 comments:

  1. Nice post Bob. For me the big difference in my retirement of 14 years and my work life is a matter of choice. I now get to pick what I want to spend my time one. I am no longer required to spend that 9-5 (or for me 7-7) everyday doing something that I might not have really wanted to do.

    One thing you didn't directly mention is the physical limitations that many of us face in these years. They do put a hamper on some things but there are still a myriad of choices around those handicaps. Like you this is the happiest time of my life. I love being able to make my own choices.

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    1. Physical limitations are a reality as we age, but often we have the skills and inventiveness to figure out a work-around in many cases: can't jog anymore? Then walking is even better as an exercise. Can't walk? Then chair exercises help maintain your flexibility. Human beings are amazingly adaptable animals!

      The overall freedom of retirement is intoxicating, isn't it.

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  2. I like this, Bob. I think too many people over think it. It's just another phase of moving forward through life.
    b

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    1. There are a lot of advisers, authors, and pundits that over-complicate this process. Thanks, Barb.

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  3. Thanks Bob for confirming what I have learned. I never realized how much change it would be. But perhaps I was an extreme. It is a whole different group of skills that I have needed.

    It come as a bit of a shock to go from self-employed 70 to 90 hours per week work to 0 hours, and have all that time to fill. Then we find out what we thought was fun gets tiring doing it full time, and a few hours each week are enough or too much. We find the attitudes of others also change, as well as ourselves. Those other old guys get so serious over cribbage; it is not fun anymore. Some are so negative, they could kill a battery at 50 feet. Or become fixated on traveling, or full time RV types, or garden fixation, or grandlings looking after. Retirement; for some of us, is extreme change. Relationships change; some people get dropped completely (work related, and I had few that were not work related anymore), other new people come into our lives, perhaps new 'work' of the retired, what ever that may be.

    Some of us have struggled with 'personality issues' all of our lives, or substance abuse / maladaptive behaviors / poor coping methods for insane situations ... what ever those are... and those issues may come up more often, and need to be addressed differently. Work was escape.

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    1. When we stop changing and evolving we are likely dead. Life that stands still isn't really life. You are so right, Fred, that too many of us get locked into one way of thinking and reacting.

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  4. This is my favorite post today of all the blogs I read, thanks!

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  5. I agree, biggest difference is the matter of choice. Some people relish the freedom of choice; others find it a challenge. Many people are used to their corporate or govt. job, and like having other people set their priorities and schedules and take care of their finances. In retirement you have to take care of yourself, set your own schedules, find your own reason to get up in the morning. For me, it's easy. B still works, so she sets the alarm. I get up when she gets up, or I know I'm in big trouble!

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    1. I often think back to the time I spent in the military for basic training. No thinking was required - someone else did all that for me. I didn't like it.

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  6. Another awesome post! It is true that "wherever you go, there you are." -- retirement is no different. If time management was an issue previously, it might still be an issue; if you enjoyed life to the fullest before, that will most likely continue in retirement.

    I agree with Fred that you have to adjust to new circumstances & there are always limitations, both inwardly imposed & those from the outside. (I love the statement, "Some are so negative, they could kill a battery at 50 feet!" --- I've known folks like that, young & old, all my life) and I agree with Bob that the overall freedom in retirement is intoxicatiing! What a great set of choices to have, but that also means that the retiree is ultimately responsible for those decisions & the results.

    Retirement has been, for me, the time when I have gotten the opportunity to stop, take a deep breath, try whatever I wanted (within reason), re-boot if that didn't satisfy me & move on without wastiing my energy on self-criticism. What a blessing!

    pam

    pam

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    1. If I accomplish nothing else with all these blog posts over almost four years, I hope it is to instill in readers a belief in their ability to make this a great period of their lives, and that any obstacles are not insurmountable.

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  7. Seeing as how this is my first full week of retirement, I can give concurrance to your points in the blog. If you cannot check off those things you have listed, or perhaps even more, you are likely not ready for retirement. Not a lot of mystery; some people are and some are not.

    I also agree with FredT. It is an amazing feeling not to have to worry about catching flights, or being on concalls, or answering all the idiotic questions management at a large company seem to specialize in. Having a great time getting things done around the house, doing some investing, going to movies during the day, going out for lunch instead of always dinner with the wife, and so on. Interesting times, my friend.

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    1. Movies before noon.....I didn't even know there were such things until I retired.

      Like you, I left behind clients who didn't know when to stop, problems that didn't respect the concept of private time, and the giant sucking sound of my life circling round the drain. Thank goodness, I got out when I did.

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  8. This is probably your best post ever. Simple and straightforward and pretty much says it all. Should make it into someone's book eventually... or yours if you do another one. I had the most trouble with Number 3. I started retirement in a panic to find my passion. Now I just relax and enjoy the passion of the moment... knowing that it may change tomorrow. I used to think that was a character flaw. Now I wouldn't have it any other way.

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    1. I didn't even know blogging existed five years ago but now it is my major interest. Will it be five years from now? Probably not, but that's what is exciting.

      I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, Judy. Thanks.

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  9. Agree with those who think this is an excellent post--simple, straight to the points, and --spot on!

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    1. This post took about 10 minutes to write (and 13 years to figure out). I'm glad it has met with such approval!

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  10. Great post Bob! My wife and I are still circling the decision as to exactly WHEN to finally pull the plug on our full time jobs. 50 years is a long time to work and there is definitely uncertainty involved in launching a new phase in our lives. It is always reassuring to read about the successful transitions made by others.

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    1. There is uncertainty about almost anything we do that involves substantial change. But, we humans are rather adaptable and find a way to make things work together.

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  11. I recently discovered your blog and have read many of your older posts. I have made the decision to retire in the next couple of months at the age of 57 from a long time government job in urban planning. At the moment, I am excited about it, but then have reservations. However, my gut tells me to go and discover a new path in life. I've certainly enjoyed your positive outlook and encouragement all those who've commented!

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    1. Welcome, Jim. I'm glad you found the blog. As you probably know I retired 13 years ago and after a unsettled few years, found this to be the best time of my life. If you didn't have some reservations you wouldn't be normal. But, trust your gut and trust yourself to take the next step. Life is too short to delay this phase of life that is packed with freedom and excitement.

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  12. I've got all of those skills so I'm about ready. I just have to make it to the finish line...6.4 years to go! A very time post.

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    1. 6.4 years.....will go by in a flash! It is very good you are prepared so far in advance. You will have a great time!

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  13. Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.comSun Apr 13, 08:37:00 AM MST

    Check, check, check, check, and check. I think I'm ready for the big transition in just a little less than a month! You write such thought-provoking posts - they really help me put aside (most) of my unease and encourage me to embrace the future that my husband and I will have together in retirement. I can't wait until May 17 when I will wake up unemployed... and more than OK with that!

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    1. May 17th...one week after my 65th birthday!!

      You will love the feeling of freedom and freshness and the extra time with your hubby.

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  14. I rarely comment twice on a blog, but I just realized this morning that one of the reasons my transition into retirement was so comfortable was because I read this blog & a couple others before I actually retired. I'm so glad CNN Money profiled you and glad that you take your time to share your life with us. Reading the blogs adds enjoyment to my days. Thanks!

    pam

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    1. You are so very welcome, Pam. Betty and I look forward to another trip to your part of California to spend more time with you.

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  15. Hi Bob, we are about two years away from retirement, though, we have been planning for this event for many years. We have made financial plans and have developed interests and hobbies, travel plans, etc, and can't wait to start on this next phase. I have a few friends that found themselves in a forced retirement situation before they were ready, they had not planned for this and though they were the age of retirement, 60ish, it hit them hard. They were unprepared. The first six months were very difficult for them, but as the reality became 6 months they had settled down and are doing well.

    It is so important to realize that this event WILL happen at some point, and some thought and planning will go along way to alleviate stress and set yourself up for success. Blogs like yours, I like yours the best!, really assist people that are retired and those contemplating retirement to give it some thought and realize it can and should be a very exciting part of their life.

    Though our travel usually includes flights and condo rentals as well as car road trips, in fact we are heading from Canada down to the Moab region and then to your neck of the woods, Cave Creek AZ, in a few weeks. Reading about the RV lifestyle has me thinking....

    Anyway, I just wanted to mention that I love your site, love your way of writing and I visit your site often. It is a break for me to follow your journey and am excited for you and Betty.

    Keep up the great and important work that you do.

    Dale

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    1. Thanks, so much, Dale, for the supportive comment. I am glad you find some value here.

      Cave Creek in May...you won't be cold! It is a neat little community just on the outskirts of the Phoenix metro. Since it is only about 20 minutes from our home, Betty and I go there a few times a year for their excellent arts and crafts festivals and to enjoy breakfast at the cafe at the base of the world's largest sundial.

      Retirement is not what I expected...it is so much more., Most everyone has the skills to make it a tremendous time of life.

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