I have been blogging on this subject long enough to know that not everyone has a satisfying retirement. The post, When Retirement Becomes Less Than You Dreamed, generated a lot of comments and e-mails from those who have found all of this to be a bit of a struggle.
Some of the reasons are obvious: financial, medical, maybe relationship struggles. But, I wondered why folks who don't have any particular stumbling block still are hesitant, maybe even fearful about the whole idea of retirement. I have receieved enough correspondence to know there are plenty of people who refuse to even consider leaving work, not because they need the money or are even in love with the job, but because they are nervous about what may lie ahead.
I wondered what may be some of the underlying concerns. What causes someone to avoid leaving the 9-5 world even if he or she can? A couple of possibilities came to mind:
* A Lifetime of Conditioning. It starts with kindergarten. That was followed with twelve years of High School, maybe four or more years of College or vocational training. Then, we had to find a job to pay off a student loan, or support ourselves and maybe a family.
For 60 years we have been moving in one direction: forward. We have been taught to achieve, produce, learn, provide, succeed. We have been told that we must keep our commitments. Our days and weeks and years are mostly controlled by others.
Then, one day, that stops. The path we have been on since our childhood ends. The way we have been conditioned to live loses its moorings. The concessions we have made and the trade of our time for money is over. Now what are we supposed to do? What are the new rules?
* Doubt in Ourselves. No matter how self-confident or in control we appear to others, all of us harbor doubts. It is not hard to convince ourselves that the perfect retirement plan may not be so great. Being retired means we will have to be in control of everything, every day. If we have any questions about our ability to fill our time, stay happy and engaged, and be around another person all the time, thoughts of retirement can raise some serious doubts in our mind.
* Doubt in Others. The fine folks in Washington may decide to unravel the rules that we have played by to get to this point in our life. Talk of changing Medicare or Social Security can unsettle even the most confident of us. A major upheaval of the financial markets is very much out of our control and can have life-altering consequences. Without an income, a recovery is very difficult. If we have relationship problems then we aren't really sure how he or she will react to the loss of a regular paycheck and routine.
I can see these three reasons, or others I may not have thought of, as being a stumbling block to someone on the cusp of retirement. I do not suggest they be ignored or promise everything will be fine. Any one of them can be a legitimate concern.
I hope all the posts on this blog and the very fine readers who participate with comments and shared experiences can help someone tackle an issue like this and feel comfortable about moving forward. As always, if you have a particular concern, please feel free to send me an e-mail. The address is available at the top of this page.