First Steps

RETIREMENT TAKES MENTAL PREPARATION 

According to the Social Security Administration, approximately 36 million Americans are age 65 or older.  Many of these folks are retired.  Where are they?  What are they doing?  Are they happy?

I retired after working for 42 years, the last 20 in a management position for a large employer.  I had read many books on planning for retirement.  Early on in my research I read, “Investing for the Future,” by Larry Burkett, “Sound Mind Investing,” by Austin Pryor, and many articles from investment companies.

These books helped me get a financial perspective for my future.  I helped plan and participated in a couple of financial planning seminars held at work.  Later, I read, “Don’t Retire, Rewire,” by Jeri Sadler and Rick Miners.  This was a gift from my son, who knew that his goal-oriented mom would need structure and a plan after retirement.

I had been thinking about retirement for about six years and had been making plans for that wonderful day when I would no longer be at the beck and call of a schedule, deadlines or other folks’ needs or demands.

I had planned financially for years and made some investment reallocations during those last five years.  I had the support of my family.  I had my list of all the things I had always wanted to do but never had the time.  I thought I knew everything I needed to know.  I was wrong!

I imagine that many of you are yearning for retirement now.  Are you planning not only financially, but mentally, emotionally, creatively and spiritually?

This whole issue of retirement is like so much of life:  gut wrenching.  My experience led me to think that others might be feeling somewhat the same.  Should you retire early, should you wait until 65, or should you work until you are no longer physically able?

After all, retirement is a fairly new phase of life.  It has been only in the past 40 or 50 years that this nation’s workers lived long enough and had financial stability to experience retirement.  The baby boomers on this precipice will make these decisions in the next two to five years.  Will they make decisions that they will be happy with the rest of their lives?  Have they thought beyond finances?

I had given a six-month notice at work so that a smooth transition could be made between my replacement and me.  It was about this time that I started counting the months.  It was fun to do a “countdown,” especially on those cold, rainy January mornings when I’d rather stay home in front of the fire.

At about four months, I began counting the weeks.  It seemed like a long way off.  It was a dream that I still couldn’t believe was happening.

Then I began experiencing some unexpected anxieties about 12 weeks before my retirement date.  At about this time the reality set in.  I couldn’t believe that I was actually mourning “lasts:”  the last time I would participate in that “pet” project, the last time I would plan goals for the next year, and many others.

This “mourning” thing was a big surprise to me.  I had not expected to be sad about missing monthly meetings, preparing monthly accomplishments or justifying monthly financial reports.  Why was I cherishing the last times I would participate in these responsibilities?  These were the activities I thought I hated.

Did they somehow give me my identity?  Did they justify my being “stressed”?  Did they make my frustrations respectable?  Did they raise my expectations of myself?

Was I afraid that I would be insignificant without these identifiers?

Take this journey with me.  It might make you preplan, re-plan or disband the idea of retiring.