April 23, 2021

Seven Reasons Your Retirement May Not Satisfy You

 


Satisfying Retirement isn't a reality for everyone who is ready to retire, or close enough to dream about it. I am a firm believer in the endless opportunities for personal growth and passion fulfillment of this stage of life. But, I have openly admitted I struggled during the first few years.

Without rehashing everything that can cause problems, here is a list of seven things that can cause an unsatisfying retirement, at least for a period of time:

1. Not ready..-still enjoying work. Not everyone wants to retire when society seems to tell us it is time. For many, it isn't even about wanting to add to retirement savings. it is still about personal satisfaction and challenges. As long as what you do to earn money satisfies you and is in harmony with the rest of your life, it isn't time for full retirement. 
 
2. No replacement for the place of work in your life. This is the opposite of the situation above. Retirement sounds great and you are ready, but you have nothing to come home to. You have never developed interests or passions away from the office or job site. Without something to stimulate you in this way, retirement will only cause frustration. Too many folks go back to work not because they miss it, but because there is no structure or stimulation during the day.

3. Unrealistic expectations. If you believe no more work means no more responsibilities or complications you will be disappointed. If your savings are more appropriate for long weekends in the nearest state park but you think you are entitled to a world cruise, there are heavy seas ahead. If you think the mundane stuff of everyday life will disappear, that is not how it works. If you think being home full-time with a significant other will solve all problems, don't count on it. 24/7 with one other person puts any relationship to the test.

4. Fear and Worry. The opposite concern is to worry about every penny you spend or to live in fear that your planning was not sufficient. Financial pitfalls don't stop just because you don't work, but to focus on them will make for an unhappy existence. Dreading the loss of physical wellbeing or independence? Those are natural concerns, but you can't let them dominate your outlook. Live now to your fullest abilities. 


5. Poor time management. When folks retire, many over-commitment themselves to projects, goals, volunteer work, and travel plans. Others suddenly realize the day is still 24 hours long and you are responsible for filling it. Either approach usually results in an unsatisfying experience. Learning how to balance "me" time, "us" time, and "other's" time demands is a skill you will develop.

6. Entered unprepared financially and emotionally. Just because the calendar says you are retirement age, doesn't mean you can. As this blog has pointed out time and time again, there is a real requirement that you enter this new phase of your life well prepared. Unless you are forced to retire quickly and unexpectedly, use the near future to be as prepared as you can be...realizing that most of your plans and ideas will need to be adjusted as your new life unfolds.

7. Looking at others' lives. Retirement is an individual adventure. How mine has unfolded will not be like yours. While I hope my experiences can help you make the best decisions, eventually your life will assume a direction that is right for you. 
Just like it is counterproductive to envy someone's bigger home or newer car, trying to match a retirement lifestyle you read about in a magazine or hear about from a friend will not make you happy.


Every one of these seven pitfalls can be overcome if that is your goal. Each simply takes some effort, a fresh perspective, and an honest appraisal of your situation, needs, and desires. 

But, I can't stress enough that you must be committed to retirement for it to satisfy you. And, you must be willing to endure lots of mid-course corrections on this most unique of all journeys.


14 comments:

  1. I love the advice in your last paragraph. A willingness to self-correction makes any journey better. You just can't anticipate everything that could, would and will happen.

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    1. Isn't it interesting that during our working years we stay on a particular course, mostly straight ahead, unwavering, with a goal in front of us.

      When we retire, that road starts to develop side paths, sometimes the road in front of us is blocked so we maneuver around it. There is np one goal or only one way to move.

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  2. I think #3 is a biggie. It is easy to think something magical happens when you retire and every day is filled with fun. You are correct in stating that everyday life continues much the same. Yet, the freedom is very nice!

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    1. My parents generation believed that after retirement, all cares and worries were gone. Lots of cruises and vacations created an unrealistic view of what lay ahead. We are approaching what is ahead much more realistically, but also with more optimism.

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  3. Not having cultivated outside interests is a sure predictor of trouble filling the time the job used to take. I read a column where retired people complain about boredom--their own or their spouse's.

    My father, who retired at 79 with brain damage from a car crash, still found things to do with himself. He could still do the newspaper's daily crossword puzzle, for instance. He was living for a while in an over-55 gated community and complained that the people he met there were all "content-free" and had "never been anywhere or done anything" but their jobs. I walked around and found it was similar to the atmosphere I knew from visiting clients living in elderly housing. A lot of gossip, not much else.

    When he got hurt I started learning a suite of new hobbies, just coincidentally. But as I neared retirement myself, I worried that even all that would not be enough due to low social involvement, so I joined an organization that does service projects. The get-togethers for my hobbies all got cancelled, but the organization and its projects kept going through the pandemic. Sometimes we met by Zoom but more often we just masked up and spaced out.

    I hardly miss my job at all, two years out, and am staying happily as busy as I want to be.

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    1. Your experience may have been like mine: I worried about what to do after retirement since my whole life was work. As it turns out there were whole parts of me that were not revealed until I was without work to turn to. I discovered new skills and interests, took some risk, and have never felt more fulfilled. I don't resent the 35 years I gave to my career, it gave me the foundation to do what I want now.

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  4. Dear Bob and Friends, most definitely #6. And yeah, $$ isn't everything, but in the world as is, $$ sure helps to have enough to pay bills as soon as they arrive, while growing at least some savings. i'm still working, but have seen more than a few willingly just up and retire - and getting a family member or somebody to float 'em a few hundred, until the annuity check comes. Where i work, that can take a few weeks. Uh, sounds too much like stress, might as well stay working.

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    1. Not having enough financial support to be able to actually enjoy retirement is a big no-no. Keep working, as you mention, until the ground under your feet feels like it will support you.

      Financial problems happen to all of us. A major medical disaster to yourself or family member can upend even the most carefully laid plans. I am referring to the everyday cost of survival and enjoying your new life. That may mean library books only, travel videos instead of going to Greece, and a hobby less expensive than restoring vintage cars. But, trust me, this is a pretty wonderful world and time of life if you simply open yourself up to what is right in front of you.

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  5. It took me quite awhile to adjust to retirement. Now that I have been retired for about 7 years, I am well adjusted to the joys. I am intentionally living a slow life and noticing all around me.

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    1. I have a post coming up in a few days about mindfulness and meditation, designed to do exactly what you are experiencing: noticing all that is around you.

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  6. OH man, I love retirement the minute I left the back door the final time.

    I was committed to NOTHING on my calendar for 5 months. I did what I wanted, when I wanted and nothing when I wanted. I love to piece and quilt, walk, knit, read, garden, preserve food, hike, go to the mountains, have dinner or cocktails with friends, play piano, sing.....to name a few. And sometimes just sit on my butt ;-) After the 5 months? Travel to visit friends, family, see new places...this was all part of my rampant savings goals for retirement. (We've lived on 35% of our gross for a long time).

    I want to get better at all the things I enjoy. Little did I know that my 5 months would be immediately followed by Covid and become nearly 2 years. So the travel cancelled, the concerts cancelled......and I am content. Those opportunities will come to me as long as the good Lord lets me wake up each day.

    I absolutely agree that one without a plan and some clear direction on how to replace those 40+ hours each week should NOT retire. Instead, spend 10 hours a week figuring out what you love to do with your "downtime" and determine if you would love to do it full time. No one I know wants to golf 50 hours a week, or go boating 50 hours a week or watch TV 50 hours a week.......etc.

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    1. Most people probably laugh at the idea that you have to plan how to make use of all your free time after retirement. But, as you note, to not prepare is not a winnable strategy. Over the years i have had emails from dozens and dozens of folks who went back to work because they were bored silly at home.

      Your suggestion of using some dedicated time to think about what you want to do is a good one. I will add that whatever ideas are generated, know that they will evolve and change over time. Retirement is never static.

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  7. #2 was big for my husband. In fact his job in management, was his whole purpose in life, so he had much difficulty when he retired too young at 57. He was bored, controlling, often irritable, unhappy and depressed to various degrees, though not every single day, but enough that I will always believe it cut his life short, just 11 years later. He could not see it or discuss it.

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    1. Though not all cases end as sadly as your husband's, men are more likely than women to struggle with an identity that isn't somehow wrapped up with their job or career. One of the most common questions I receive from men is what to do with their time and how to figure out who they are away from the office. I have freely admitted I had this problem after retiring before I was ready. Luckily, I found a new sense of self, but those first two or three years were difficult.

      While I no research to prove this, my hope is that younger men have seen what happened to their fathers and make more of an effort to develop interests during their working days, are overall more social so they have male friends to turn to, and don't define their entire self by what they do to earn a living.

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