A 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.