A while back, a regular reader of Satisfying Retirement left a comment that raised an issue of retiring that I had never thought of before. Here is what he said:
"A new insight today....a little bit of anger from my friends who are feeling abandoned by my plans to leave the community. I knew it would be scary for me, but I think I underestimated the impact upon my friends, band mates and neighbors. I just didn't think of myself as being all that important in their lives. It is a bittersweet revelation. I doubt I'll lose any friendships, but I know some of them are feeling pain that I never intended to inflict. I wonder how commonly this occurs."
I have written quite often about moving after retirement. It is a major decision that should not be taken lightly. I usually advise folks to wait at least a year after retirement before moving to a new home. Leaving work is a major cause of stress to nearly everyone, as is moving. To pile them on top of each other is risky.
With that said, I have rarely written about the effect on those you leave behind. Often a move is made to be closer to family, leave bad weather, or find a place with a lower cost of living. But, what about friends? This fellow has raised an interesting point about unintended consequences and what, if anything, we need to do about them.
A famous example occurred in India years ago. The government wanted to reduce the number of cobra snakes, so it offered a bounty for all those reptiles turned in. That ordnance caused a huge spike in new cobra snake sales as people tried to collect the bounty money. The program was abandoned, leaving more snakes than before.
Unintended consequences are a part of life. On the job you are probably quite familiar with something that might qualify: an e-mail that is read by the wrong person, a snide comment that is overheard by the boss, a tendency to be the first to leave the office every night. There is also the flip side: a report that is finished early and helps solve a problem, or a compliment to a co-worker that energizes her to find a solution to something that is hurting company profits.
During retirement there are all sorts of example of unintended consequences. This reader mentioned one that deserves some thought on your part if it fits your situation. Here are a few others:
...The quality of your retirement is negatively affected because you didn't save/invest enough for the lifestyle you are leading.
...You never pushed back from the table or refused that large piece of chocolate cake, so you find yourself taking a boatload of pills and seeing the doctor much too often.
...You treated your spouse like an indentured servant and can't understand why things are so unpleasant at home.
...You enabled your adult child to avoid responsibility for his or her own life for too long, and now they are permanently dependent on you.
...You keep waiting to do something "until tomorrow" and tomorrow never comes.
Then, on the positive side of the unintended consequence coin:
...You lived simply and without lots of "needs." Now you find you can afford to spend that summer in Paris you have always dreamed of.
...You treated others the way you'd want to be treated, and now your life is filled with friends.
...You found activities and interests that keep you energized and excited. As a result you are rarely bored and always looking forward to what each day brings.
According to Wikipedia, unintended consequences are outcomes that are not the ones intended by a purposeful action. Because these outcomes can be helpful or hurtful, thinking through all aspects of a decision is the wisest course of action. Then, it is more likely that the consequences will be intended instead.
Do you have examples of unintended consequences in your life? Were they humorous, or ones that had meaningful impacts on your life?