Tools for Retirement 102 by Nick Fog

Retirement 102: What If?

Everyone’s retirement experience is different. But we have this in common….we spent time being institutionalised for a place in the workforce.  It seems when you retire, it’s time to rethink life.  What if we were our own best friend… and took the time (and permission) to create ‘what we want’.

Lawrence, a friend, thought retirement was going to be easy. He worked as a loyal civil servant for 35 years. Equipped with an advanced degree and significant experience, he had good insight into his work. He offered his skills, as a doctor would to a patient. Collecting history, analysing problems, and rational solutions were tools that he applied. However, his well reasoned solutions frequently fell on deaf ears, as they didn’t support the careerist objectives of successive politically appointed managers. He retired having had a ‘gut full’. Post retirement his family descended on him with tasks.

He put a daughter through an expensive medical degree. She married and worked as a cook with her new husband on a rural cattle property. She rapidly fell pregnant. As there were no services on the ranch….came the question….Couldn’t dad raise her daughter?

Lawrence’s rapid decline of the new proposed parenthood role came as a momentary shock for the daughter. She had seen her father as a resource. Easy pickings. A comfortable opportunity to shift responsibility. However, Lawrence was going through his own traumas. Signing up as a parent again, was not on the wish list.

Leaving his job had stripped him of his confidence. He immediately wanted to reverse his decision and go back to work. But this was not going to be possible.

It took him several months to get over the emotional part of retirement.  The rules had changed. He had a degree of freedom he had never had before.  He needed to choose what he wanted to do, and not what others wanted him to do.

We would do well to recognize that, our lives, … . our families ….and our communities are not pickled in aspic. They are continually changing. Our greatest challenge is to recognize these changes and adapt to them.  Part of that adaptation can be in: Being your own best friend.  It’s time to give yourself good advice.

Lots of philosophers suggests that self-examination is a very important part of life. Questions like… Who am I?  And… Who do I want to be? are frequently proposed as part of the maturing process. The… Who am I question? is by far the most difficult. The…. Who do I want to be? Is somewhat easier.

However, not many of us have the inclination or resources to spend a year in psychoanalysis.  That’s definitely not going to happen.   And… sitting cross-legged in a ashram in India for a couple of years sounds pretty unappealing to most people who have matured to the point of retirement. That’s probably not going to happen either.

However there is an easier way. It’s easier to identify many of those things that you don’t want to do. Make a list of 10 things that you find really unappealing. Ask yourself why are these unappealing? You should be able to sort out why many of these things are unappealing.

Start sorting out what holds your interest, and then what’s do-able (e.g., concert pianist isn’t going to work if you’ve never played). Find something engaging and give it a go….. don’t be afraid to change your mind if it doesn’t hold your interest.

Lawrence had found the job of being a parent to a difficult child and then an unruly teenager…a challenge. A task that he didn’t want to take on again. Nor did he want to be tied down.
Travel and working with his hands was much more appealing and rewarding. Just filling time wasn’t enough for him.

A long time ago a good friend of mine said he “liked to do dishes”. For most people it was just a chore. However he saw it as something practical, that has a beginning and an end in the sense of accomplishment. He felt that social work (his chosen profession) was like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall. For him 30 min. of dishwashing was therapeutic and rewarding.

What if. ….we gave our selves permission to say ‘no’ to those things that we don’t want to do and ‘yes’ to exploration?   The problem with having a career that fully encompasses our identity, is that when it ends, we have a big struggle. Struggling is normal.  It isn’t healthy to have prolonged despair. You’ll need to turn that around.

Our time is finite. ..But unlike previous generations who spent 25% of their lives in retirement, baby boomers will spend about 40% of their lives as retirees.

Many of us have a shed full of tools. Our lives are full of opportunities for assistance if we reach for it.   We just have to figure it out.

One of the hardest mathematics for people is to remember to recognize and count the blessings that they have in life. We are surrounded by assets. Good friends… our own talents….a sense of humour… people who could mentor us or be mentored by us. And that enormous library…the internet.

It’s the biggest information assets that this generation has…..electronic communications. We can connect with people that we lost. There is a vast library of information on every subject and a video that will show you how to do almost anything that’s practically oriented. But all of that…’ all of our tools’ represents potential. If we are totally seduced by our ‘recliner and the TV that you could see from outer space’ in front of it, the opportunity and possibly our health is compromised.

The shed online is an electronic opportunity. It’s like higher education or travel. It doesn’t guarantee enlightenment or success. It’s just an opportunity to connect with others, share information, develop a community or simply have your say. It’s ideally suited for those who need to be engaged and suffer from the tyranny of distance. It presents a vast number of personalities and perspectives.

It’s yours to discover and it’s available when you are .  … and costs next to nothing. You just have to find,  or create something engaging.