Tools for Retirement 101 by Nick Fog

Retirement… notwithstanding all of the wry humor, it’s really no joke for a lot of us. For a considerable number of us, it’s like having the rug pulled out from under us.

Work… You loved it and/or hated it, and you can do both at the same time. And it gave us a sense of purpose. For most of us it helped define who we were. For some our work projects and relationships where a significant part of us.

All that changed when work stopped. All those nasty clichés about retiring meaning: that you were a superfluous bit of clutter in your household, have the possibility to become reality. Our partnerships, if we haven’t been working on them, may be at risk. We now have the possibility to spend inordinate amounts of time in our dwellings, and if our partners aren’t really in tune with this dramatic shift, it can be an extra burden for them. Sit too long in that comfortable chair and you may have a doily placed on your emerging male pattern baldness spot.

Advertising paints a rosy picture about how good retirement can be. Poolside shots of people enjoying themselves and offers of grand trips on ocean liners becomes considerably more noticeable, when we are faced with a lot of time on our hands. But perhaps that is not the reality. Especially if you don’t have the financial resources you once had.

While some retirees may think of life as a blank canvas, others may see it as a sea of challenges dominating our present world. If you’re the type who spent considerable amounts of your energy at work and  got all your rewards there and loved it, you may think of work as your first family. Most of us who were really building business success, enjoyed the engagement and rewards. Now, being out of the workforce, the question is… where will we get those same rewards? If we didn’t invest in preparing for our change, and our family life is less than rewarding, we are in trouble.

How we deal with this starts with being brutally honest with ourselves about our current circumstances. And yes… this can lead to the big question. Who am I?  The ‘who am I question’ is extremely difficult to answer for most of us.  I’m not ‘my work’ anymore!

Inevitably, it leads to the next question… who do I want to be?  How will I organize the next stage of my life? If you’re like most people, you will have a period of time when you will bump into a lot of furniture along the journey (trying things). And, as a result of that, you go through a process of eliminating a lot of the comfortable notions that you came up with (like becoming an astronaut).

We look to our sheds has a comfortable meeting place for our needs. Maybe we don’t invite anyone along for the ride. Perhaps we show people our successes and learn to remake our failures and successes. But like the shed project, we need tools to do the job. So… What are the tools we need to discover who we want to be, when we are blessed with considerable amounts of free time and no work constraints.

Most of these tools seem to be social tools. By that I mean: personal investigation, relationships and trial and error. Perhaps your friends and family are a good place to start. Oh yes… they are biased, and they’ll have dozens of things they want you to do. But you really didn’t want to rebuild cousin Fred’s sewer system for him, did you? Perhaps a lot of this starts with figuring out what your assets are.

Assets (social tools) can be anything that we want to them be. The fact that you are really good at making compost is an asset, if you want to be a gardener. Equally, your neighbor who knows a lot about gardening can be an asset. Old friends, new friends, the library, your church, an old hobby or anything that engages you can be an asset. Cultivating your assets and putting them to good use (volunteering your help) can be very rewarding.

Asking yourself good questions can be the ‘best tool’. When was the last time I really lost myself in an activity? What was about it that I found so engaging. Now make a list of the 10 things I hate doing.  Then asking: why do I hate doing them?

But what isn’t an asset is negativism (beating yourself up) because things aren’t just what they should be for the moment. Recognizing when you’re feeling negative and figuring out why that is, can also be an asset. Getting rid of the personal barriers to achieving what you want to and rewarding yourself for good outcomes, is a really good way to embrace change. Finding a group of people that want to be part of that change and building relationships (family, neighbours, and Shedders) that reinforce your new situations will really help.

And in finding our what is right for you, its okay to fail. Just don’t give in to despair. Continue to define your direction and improve on your tools for development.  Be honest, and don’t let anyone define your success or failure, but yourself.  Oh yes…and you are never too old to be mentored, or to mentor.  And cultivate enthusiasm.