Just a quick review of the titles of some of the top-selling books about retirement paint a picture of ease and contentment. If you were just starting to think about retirement, here is what you might find available:
*You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think
*Victory Lap Retirement
*The Power of Positive Aging
*Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Aging
*Living a Satisfying Retirement ( a classic !)
There is absolutely nothing wrong with these books. I have read all of them, and written one of them. They contain valuable information and practical information about this transformational time of your life.
Unfortunately, there is one part of this stage of living that most retirement books tend to overlook or downplay: this is a journey without a reliable map.
As someone who spent most of his working life traveling around the United States, have been to Europe, Canada, and Mexico a few times, and traveled almost 19,000 miles in our RV, I depend on maps. Today it is more likely to be a GPS system on the dash rather than the folding type. But, I still prefer to do all my initial planning with paper maps.
A few years later I finally understood why there are no maps for retirement: every trip is unique and no one really knows where he or she is headed. The journey has never been traveled before in exactly the way you will. Kind of scary? Yes. But, quite liberating when you understand that you can’t really make a mistake.
A mistake requires a “correct” or acceptable way of doing something. If I slice the ball in golf, back my RV into a picnic table, or forget to pay the water bill I have made a mistake. If I spend all my retirement money in the first five years, I would suggest that is probably a mistake.
But, when you take a while to figure out what you want to do with your time, decide that naps in the hammock are one of God’s gifts to mankind, go back to work because you want to, or enjoy a 10-mile hike at 4 in the morning, then you can’t possibly make a mistake. There are no rules that you are breaking, no normal ways of behavior that you have bypassed.
OK, there is one “mistake” you can make in retirement: allow others to tell you how to live your life. They are in no position to suggest what you should do or how you should act, for the simple reason they are not you. Even the most well-meaning advice-giver can’t give you the best road map for you.
So, the one thing that they should tell us about retirement is this: collect all the information you can, talk with anyone with something to offer, read some good books, and then strike out on your own, unique path. The only “mistake” you can make is following someone else’s path.
Knowing this is tremendously freeing.
P.S. Today is not only Valentine’s Day but also my wife’s birthday. She is certainly the primary reason my retirement is much more satisfying!