July 22, 2016

Why Retirement May be Bad For You

Well, there is an interesting title for a post on a blog all about living a satisfying retirement. But, in all honestly, for lots of people, the answer is that retirement may not be a wise choice, at least not now. It may not be satisfying. 

I have taken the position many times that retirement is a unique journey for each of us. No matter how many books or blogs you read (!), friends you consult, or Google searches you conduct, the answer to your retirement success lies within you. The one-of-a-kind mix of your personality, your life to this point, your influences, your attitudes, even your spiritual beliefs, combine to influence this stage of your life.

One of the realities of that mix of factors is you may be much happier if you continue working until they carry you out on a stretcher. Your life might be fuller if you leave one job and start a new company. Your days may require the challenge of proving yourself in a competitive work environment.

Conventional wisdom says we are all ready for a break from responsibility and the enforced schedule of regular employment. Retirement is the stage of life when we get to indulge ourselves doing what we want, when we want. Travel, volunteering, writing, reading, playing with the grandkids, whatever makes us happy shapes our day.  

But, what if you are happiest when working and being productive in a situation where you are paid for your contribution? What if not having deadlines or timetables and goals just doesn't bring you satisfaction? What if retirement for you means leaving one job and starting another?

Then, go for it. The distinctiveness of this phase of our lives really means any path that satisfies you is the correct one to choose. What the majority of folks believe does not make that belief right for you. To follow the usual course means to deny your uniqueness, and that is likely to not end well.

Regardless of the way you live it, one reality of retirement is that things will change. Not leaving the work force, not taking the path most others choose may be the most authentic, most important choice for you, right now. Will it still be the best path in a year, five years, a decade into the future? Who knows? Your responsibility is to be open to making another decision when what you are doing now no longer seems to it; it is no longer entirely satisfying.


Robert Frost might have best summarized the retirement choice each of us must make: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." 



In its traditional sense, retirement may be bad for you. If so, don't do it. Design your own satisfying retirement journey. Go where there is no path. Instead, leave a new trail, one cut by you.


Note: I ran across this tongue-in-cheek blog post on the road less traveled and thought you might enjoy it: 10 Reasons to take the road not taken


14 comments:

  1. My Uncle Tom was able to keep working at his company until he was 91 and they finally threw him out. The reason? I think he was afraid of his wife (who, coincidentally, died when he was 91). He enjoyed his retirement for another four years before he died.

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    1. Well, there is an interesting motivation to keep working. Can't say I recommend it, but it worked for him (and her).

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  2. You're right on topic here, Bob, because the BabyBoomers really are doing retirement differently, and many aren't retiring at all! Continuing to work full-time, moving to part-time work, and opening their own businesses are all options now being taken by supposedly "retired" people. And why not? As long as our health and energy are good, we have the freedom of many paths from which to choose. We're so lucky!

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    1. We are very lucky. The point to emphasize is that retirement ( a terrible word, by the way) gives someone the freedom to make those kind of choices. Of course, any choice made now is open to revision at any time, another freedom younger folks rarely have.

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  3. I think it depends on what your vision of retirement is. I never saw a time to do nothing but watch soap operas and talk shows all day. But, not having to answer to anyone about what I choose to do, whether it be writing or painting or whatever and whenever is very satisfying.
    b

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    1. It is all about the vision and what satisfies someone at whatever stage of life he or she is in at that moment. I have zero interest in working for a paycheck again, but that doesn't mean I think people who do so are wrong.

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  4. Bob's point is right on target. I wish I had read something like that before I retired. I always used to tell my co-workers and family that I would leave my job when I was taken out with a sheet over me. But I faltered and retired. Now two years into retirement, I am unhappy and bored and would sell my soul to the devil if I could go back in time and not make that decision to retire. But life has many scenarios with no do-overs. My job was my identity--now I, as the girl said on Game of Thrones, am no one. Readers of this blog--pay attention to Bob's post as he hits the nail on the head every time. Retirement is not to be taken lightly.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. Retirement is serious business since it can be 20 or 30 years long. The decisions to retire, and how to manage one's time should not be taken lightly. Don't retire just because you've had a bad month or even a bad year at work. Retire when you are both financially and emotionally ready.

      Thanks again.

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  5. Bob, you share some good thoughts. I love my retirement and my free time. Every week I get to choose what I do. I've met some wonderful people who are also retired and they love it. I've also talked to some wonderful people who can't imagine a life without work. I think I made a good choice for me so far. Maybe I'll change my mind someday and go back to work, but right now I can't imagine doing that. I am having such a satisfying retirement.

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    1. It should be a very individual decision for each of us. Whether one keeps working for financial reasons, satisfaction in being part of a team and productive in a work environment, or because there is nothing that person would rather do, it is important to exercise that choice.

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  6. I think an important part of the discussion is that it can be hard to 'un-retire'. Many people who have experienced layoffs after the age of 55 or so have difficulty finding work again at the same level so leaving your career at 55, not working for several years and creating a gap in your resume, and then trying to reverse your decision and go back to work in that same level of position/pay may mot be possible. As we age, retirement becomes more of a one way street.

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    1. That is an important point. It is probably true that most people who decide to "unretire" do so by taking another path: part time work, starting their own company, or developing a consulting business in their old field. To go back, at the same salary, is not easy.

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  7. I could have retired on July 1st of this year and had Supreme Court Justice Scalia not passed away, I probably would have had to retire due to what his vote would have been on a bill before the Supreme Court. However, the Saturday night that the leading news was announcing his passing, I knew in my heart I would be okay to keep working and decided to do so since I could now make up my own mind. I stayed home with my now 30 year old daughter and so I have some years of no income to make up for and beef up my Social Security check at age 70, 3 years from now. I used to be the Employee Benefits Coordinator for C. H. Masland & Sons in Carlisle, PA...a company that used to advertise their carpets on many game shows in the seventies. The building site is now a parking lot, however, when I was 36 and told that if I wanted this child I would have to be on bed rest until she was born, I packed up all my information from the retirement seminars that I used to conduct. As I reached age 65, I dusted off the box and was so shocked at what inflation had done to the average social security check. In 1985 the average check per month was $250 versus $1250 today. The average pension check for retiring employees was $36 per month. This was a factor, plus reading and hearing about the 25% reduction we are being told is coming when I reach my mid 80s and employment will be really difficult to obtain then. Pretty much every morning on my commute to my office I double check with myself on whether I'm still glad I'm driving to work and so far the answer is absolutely yes. If things do get difficult in my 80s with inflation hitting hard, at least I know I did what I could to make the best choices available at this time.

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    1. You have done your due diligence and reached the right conclusion for you at this moment. It is good your current employer is open to your continuing until you decide it is time. In a lot of situations, that does not happen.

      Yes, when planning for the future folks must take inflation into account. Even at the current low level, over time the loss of buying power becomes important.

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