People who are not retired might assume that retirement is like a never-ending vacation: no schedule, no endless commutes or meetings, no worrying about being down-sized. Live where you want, do what you want when you want to.
I will be the first to say that retirement is fabulous. This June will mark 18 years since I left my working days behind. And, in many ways retirement is like a vacation, but maybe not quite in the way you think.
A well-deserved break from work, a vacation, includes:
1) Sunny days, but also cloudy days, rainy days, or snowy days.
2) Days that are exciting, open you up to new experiences, and create lasting memories.
3) Days that are routine: laundry that must be done, food shopping or other chores, a headache lasts too long, you are feeling grumpy or out of sorts.
4) Days that are disappointing: an excursion is cancelled, a promising museum is not worth the price, the weather means no zip lining.
5) Spending more money than you had planned on a fancy restaurant meal, some nice mementos or decorations for your home, splurging on a convertible or SUV instead of the compact car you had reserved, does serious damage to your vacation budget.
6) Going home re-energized and ready to take on the world.
Guess what, retirement has the same combination of days, events, thrills, disappointments, budget-busters, and energy as your last vacation. How could that be? Retirement is all about freedom, making choices, avoiding what you don't like, having time to indulge in what you love.
Well, yes and no. Retirement is a time of life when you are more likely to be free to follow your dreams, passions, and interests. Time is more under your control unstead of your master. You build your schedule more to match your preferences.
But, retirement is also just a stage of living. All the stuff you don't like or want to ignore doesn't simply go away with your last paycheck. The sun shines, the rainy days come, the bad weather spoils plans. Laundry piles up, food must be replaced. Doctor appointments can't be put off forever.
The car doesn't start, the porch roof leaks, the dishwasher stops cleaning dirty dishes. Your taxes are still due in April.
The two part series of a few weeks ago about getting out of debt and turning one's life around were strong example of this blend of the happy and the sad, along with the mix of living one's dream and having that dream interrupted by unpleasant reality.
Both true stories ended well, though life might still hold a few surprises for Barbara and Laura. If that happen I'm quite confident both women will find a way back on track to a place that satisfies them.
To expect retirement to be a time of never-ending pleasure and satisfying your wants is to set yourself up for disappointment. That's just like expecting your dream vacation to be a perfect 7 or 10 days with no problems, no hassles, no setbacks.
To expect retirement to be another stage of life, with all the ups and downs that implies, is to be properly prepared for what will come. You have a satisfying retirement within your grasp, and that is the ultimate definition of a vacation.