April 5, 2017

Eliminate These 3 Retirement Stumbling Blocks


A successful satisfying retirement can be upended by any number of problems, some of which you determine and some of which you don't. Your lifestyle and genes will play a large part in your health. Financial planning will be a crucial factor in how comfortable your life is after retirement. Your relationships can help make daily life happy or miserable. 

There are three additional stumbling blocks to success that are completely under your control. None of them has to upend your journey. But, any one of them can, if you don't pay attention to their potential for problems.


The number one stumbling block is lack of self confidence


In previous posts I have stressed the importance of attitude in how satisfying your retirement will be. To steal an overused political phrase, I am doubling down on that belief by making this the most important stumbling block. You have made it this far in life by making more good decisions than bad, correcting mistakes, and maturing in your decision making ability. 

Then why is it that the thought of retirement can bring out a lack of self-confidence, a fear of taking any risks, a dread of making all the wrong choices? Recently I wrote about Stage Two of a typical retirement, the time of self-doubt and worry. It happens to almost everyone.

It happens because our self-confidence falters. Usually for no specific reason we begin to doubt ourselves and our decisions. And, for almost everyone, that period of fear and worry turns out to be unfounded. There is nothing wrong with introspection. But, when it throws us in a tailspin, we are putting our retirement progress in jeopardy. 


Second is sticking with your plan after it proves unworkable


I am a planner. My family used to joke that I had a do-to list that extended months in advance. Little did they know that I had another list that included the entire year! I like predictability and having a feeling of control. Unfortunately, I had to learn those personality traits don't always work well in retirement.

No obsessive planning, no mystic with a crystal ball, no blog or book, can provide you with the perfect plot for your journey. No matter how meticulous you are, the way you expect things to turn out, won't. What you want, what you need, what is important to you, will change over time. 

The second stumbling block to a satisfying retirement is the refusal to accept that reality and to continue to plow ahead with a plan that no longer works for you. The refusal to admit you are not the same person today that you were when your master life plan was developed will not end well. The dogged insistence on following your master plan, regardless, is not recommended. 



The third stumbling block is modeling your retirement after someone else's.


Wouldn't it be great if you could just find a book or web site that gave you a retirement model that you could follow, verbatim, and be assured of a wildly happy existence? Yes, it would. Too bad, there is no such thing.

Each retirement is unique. While my writings and those of thousands of others are meant to help you avoid serious pitfalls and give you lots to think about, no one else is you. Think of your friend who lives on a sailboat in the Caribbean, your sister who has a flat in Paris and spends her days painting street scenes, or even your parents who live in a retirement community and are busy and happy.

While there may be bits and pieces in each of those lives that are a good fit for what meets your needs and desires, none should become your life without putting the essential "you" in the equation. Following someone else's game plan is a guarantee of unhappiness at some point. The right path is the one you discover on your own, adjust as you go, and put your unique stamp on that life.


Visualize yourself as the man in the image at the top of this blog. Imagine yourself leaping over those three stumbling blocks. That is the way toward a satisfying retirement.


26 comments:

  1. I really needed to read this today. I've moved the date back too many times out of fear. Last night I promised myself I wouldn't stay beyond 61 and I'm sticking to it. I've been comparing my sister's retirement to what I want, but that's not me. If I leap over the Block's and stumble, I'll get back up and try again.
    Thanks for this Bob.
    Come on 2018!

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    1. Good timing, Gail. Yes, if you stumble, as the old song said, "pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again."

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  2. Another good post. It's true that we each have to work out our own retirement for ourselves and cant copy other peoples. It's surprising just how many other people on the one hand spend a lot of their time "being grandparents" (which I understand - though I'm not one myself and never wanted to be). Then there are a lot of people who can't really make much in the way of plans - because their health (or the health of a spouse or even a very elderly parent) means their life is "on hold" unless/until that situation is resolved. I admit to being very curious what proportion of retired people dont have ill health restricting things on the one hand and aren't spending time "being grandparents" (for whatever reason) on the other hand and therefore have to make/want to make plans as such about their retirement (as opposed to just "letting Life happen"). I suspect the vast majority of people want to or have to just "let Life happen". I wonder if I'm right on that.

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    1. Drifting through retirement without much in the way of a plan or goals, even modest ones, is such a waste of opportunity. Goals don't have to be lofty, but they must help someone develop parts of their personality and bring them joy. Stagnation is too typical during this stage of life.

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  3. To Ceridwen--I'm in the "not in ill health group," but two knee replacements have helped with that, so except for a few things like pogo sticks and trampolines I have pretty much full mobility. I also don't have children, so have no grandkids, to which, with apologies to some I find myself saying Hip Hip Hurray, although I recognize they are a great joy to others.

    That said, the problem with working out your own retirement is the limited time, energy, and possibly finances one has in the light of possible BIG mistakes (or even small ones). Correcting some choices, such as the wrong place to stake out retirement involve vast amounts of energy, flexible finances, and reflect some lost time. So, even though I think a major MOVE should be in my immediate plans, I stay somewhat stuck, still thinking I can make something work, which may be flawed from the get go. I can't afford, in time, energy, and finances another big mistake.

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    1. I fully understand the hesitancy to make a big decision that could have major financial costs, as well as lost time and energy. That said, life will eventually make decisions for us, ones that may leave us worse off.

      In your specific case, are there any people you can talk to who can help you work through the pros and cons to come to a decision that makes you comfortable? It doesn't necessarily have to be a professional advisor. Organizations like the Senior Corps or even AARP have resources that may work for you. Having another person look at your situation may help bring some clarity to your choices.

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  4. Sometimes we don't always have a choice about the grandparent thing. I am my grandsons legal guardian. In 2015 right after we bought our beautiful Arizona retirement home, the s*** hit the fan in my family and my grandson had no where else to go. We couldn't say no to him because we loved him but we really did not want to do it. We were already packing to move. So we figured we could just bring him with us and he could finish high school in Arizona. Nope. The courts would not let us move him. So we are stuck here in MA until he graduates in June of 2018. Meanwhile we are supporting not only him but two homes which was never our intention. It is very upsetting for us both as our retirement has now been delayed through no fault of our own other than having children.......Our biggest fear now is that we will never get to live in our dream retirement home. A lot can happen at our age. I have already noticed that I can no longer hike like I had planned to do out there. I wake up depressed every day. My husband trods off to work instead of being retired. He has to keep working now since we have all these extra expenses. And to make matters worse we just put both of my 90 something year old parents in a nursing home. They hate it there. We hate it there but we had no choice. I am spending my retirement as an indentured servant. Cooking every day, running to the nursing home, getting up early to drive my grandson to school, etc. etc. etc.

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    1. There is no getting around it: your situation stinks. The stumbling blocks were put in your way by fate and unlucky timing. I have no magic answer that will bring you much comfort except for the obvious: you are fulfilling a responsibility to your grandson, providing him with a loving and stable environment. That is a gift beyond measure. Bless you.

      Arizona will still be here in another year. When you and hubby arrive, I'll buy you a cup of coffee and welcome you to your (much delayed) retirement.

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    2. I may take you up on that cuppa! Thanks for listening....

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    3. The statistics show that it's us women that take the brunt of the duties of this 'sandwich' generation. I can tell you that I intend to fight it all the way. No gracious surrender on my part.

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  5. I love your blog. This post shows why.
    People who write retirement blogs often act as if they know everything and if they don't there's an obviously false self-deprecation because most people know that self deprecation sells. You're truly humble and I appreciate that.
    What people don't write about often enough is that it's OIK not to be confident. Actually it takes guts to admit, really admit that in many ways life's much easier when you're working 9-5- or 24/7. Routine, no time to think, many many everyday responsibilities.
    Only the everyday responsiiblities don't go away when you retire or stop working for another or work part time---often they change and we're not used to what they changed into.
    Thanks for bringing this up in a rational way.

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    1. Think you for the nice compliment. The truth is simple: I write about my life and my feelings, and then learn as much from the comments as I have shared.

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  6. I am sure you don't feel like it, but you certainly are a saint, Roberta. So many top things things at once is beyond overwhelming. You are to be highly commended for doing the right thing. Bless you.

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    1. I agree completely. She and her husband have sacrificed in a very, very meaningful way.

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  7. I like to think we started retirement with Plans A,B,C,etc.. as you know,we tried a few avenues..we revised,regrouped, I tried part time work for a while, it REALLY ate into that nice "retired" feeing we were going for!!LOL!! I know now I do not want a work life anymore!! I love my freedom and have so many interests to pursue.. Confidence?Well,I am confident we will roll with the punches, and will keep being creative about how to thrive in these years, as we did when we worked. Life at any stage is never completely predictable! We must allow ourselves the room to grow and change. Having blogs, mentors, books, advisors, to help us with managing our resources, is a good thing.No man is an island! We learn from others, and from our own foibles and successes.

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    1. And, Betty and I hope that you will be able to teach us Hand and Foot next week! We are working on our self-confidence beforehand.

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    2. Oh gosh, I AM THE WORST at remembering "game rules" and this was easy. After one practice hand, even I got it.. and, it's for FUN! I actually win sometimes in my 2 card playing groups!! It will be really fun. And there will be SNACKS!

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  8. Roberta's post struck a cord. In my 30+ years as a public health nurse, I saw many grandparents step up to the plate and take on the responsibility of raising their grandchildren when those parents died or derailed. And as you said, Bob, a gift beyond measure that I'm convinced works both ways. Ceridwen comments that "life is 'on hold' unless/until that situation is resolved." I think that plans are on hold, but not life. This is life - meeting the challenges of life in ourselves or our loved ones, whether it be ill health or life crises, or natural disasters or whatever life brings our way. Usually it's when, not if. The adaptability and resilience called for speaks to the stumbling blocks you cite.

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    1. Good observation about life being on hold. That is one thing we have no control over-stopping our life from passing one day at a time. Our plans may be tossed in the dumpster, but our one and only shot at life does not halt. That was an important observation, Mona.

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  9. Actually I'd vote for the "third stumbling block" as the biggest problem. Too many retirees feel pressured to do what is expected of them, instead of feeling free to do what they really want.

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    1. It seems easier to follow the "normal" guidelines. But, you and I know that is more often than not a flawed approach. It just doesn't account for the uniqueness of our journey.

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  10. Interesting and thought provoking post and, as always, great and insightful comments from folks. As someone who is less than two weeks into this "retirement" thing I find I am trying to anticipate when the stumbling blocks may occur. So far it seems like I am just on vacation and still under the gun to get tasks done before I run out of time. I really did not have a well thought out plan to retire. I just knew it was time. It would be great to have a foolproof plan that would assure success but not sure there really can be one. Too many variables in life. So we just need to do the best we can with what we have and remember that tomorrow is promised to no one. Thank you for this blog and the guidance it provides.

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    1. Almost 2 weeks into retirement.....the adventure has just begun, Jeff. The feeling of pressure to get things done is part of the work mindset that takes awhile to ditch. You have been living that way for so long that it seems normal. Trust me, your mindset with change.

      Thanks for the kind words.

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  12. Another great post, Bob. And you have given me the inspiration for a post on my blog.

    Lack of confidence is a often a show stopper for those looking to break free of corporate life. Yet after they do, they often say, "I should have done this earlier..." I'm sure many feel the same way about t retirement. Your pep talks are very helpful for those on the fence.

    Are you and Betty available for lunch? We head north in mid-May, and are tied up (grandkids visiting) through April 17. Any time after works (except April 26.) Would be fun to catch up

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  13. Your three points have certainly had a role in my retirement decision. I feel lucky to have had a year of leave from my regular work duties as I begin my transition to retirement. The gift of time has helped me realize, with confidence, that I am truly ready to retire. Six months ago, I was still thinking that I'd return to work for a couple more years, or maybe work part-time.

    We're planning a move to the west coast, and while I am not 100% certain that it is the right decision, we can always change our minds and move again, if it does not work out. Finally, to your third point, we've decided against the sensible rancher in a retirement destination and have agreed that the kind of house we would prefer is a more woodsy, artsy west coast contemporary style on a larger lot. So, in that we are going against the grain.

    Jude

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