First published over 5 years ago, I think the points I am making are worth repeating.
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, 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.