On a talk show recently, the host and I were discussing retirement. He related the story of a friend, a CEO who couldn’t wait to retire at 65. The pressure and stress of running a company had become so burdensome he was counting the days until it was all over.
The time finally came and he spent two years playing golf, fishing and taking his wife on cruises. One day he realized he was bored with the “good life” and wanted to work again, at least part time.
By that time, his business skills were rusty; he had lost his mental edge, and had gained too much weight. He knew he couldn’t go back to what he had done before. After much soul searching, he decided he had to do something – anything — and he took a job as a security officer at a bank.
How many retired people do you know who are putting to good use, for themselves and for others, their lifetime of skills and education? Probably not many. After the excitement of not having to answer to an alarm clock and the fun of living life as a pastime wears off, self confidence is all but gone. What a waste!
When you see them you have to wonder: What happened to the valuable stuff locked in their heads? Why is it going to waste? What do they know that could fill a void in just one person’s life or benefit society?
There are so many ways retirees can spend time productively. Many do find ways to contribute. But clearly, we do not value retirees as the treasure they are. Why else are they steered into menial, mindless jobs that require little of them, as if they are incapable of anything more complicated?
You don’t have to become part of a wasted generation. They key is to preplan, at least by midlife, to know what you want to do with the rest of your life after you leave your present work. Even those who have done manual labor all their lives and are understandably ready to call it quits, can, and should preplan for a new life after retirement. They have skills to teach others who want to learn valuable skills for “do-it-yourself” projects.
If not retired, or in early retirement, now is the time to learn all you can about a new career or life of your choice. Visualize in detail what you want your life to be like. Think about it every day, constantly expanding on what you want to achieve. Make a commitment to making your vision happen. Commitment is critically important because it will drive the choices you make about how you live your day-to-day life.
Before retirement is the time to start saving money so you will have enough to launch your chosen future. If you are saving in a 401K or other retirement plan, you are well on your way. Set spending priorities to save even more. You can stop wasting money on clothes, entertainment, Starbucks, and just everyday junk that adds up.
Whatever you do about your future is your choice. But you don’t have to become a “used to be” – “Didn’t you used to be a teacher?” “Didn’t you used to be a lawyer?” “Didn’t you used to be an electrician?”
All the “used to be” people are still what they were before they retired, and if they planned wisely, after retirement they could say “I still am the person I ‘used to be’ but I’ve also become the person I’ve always wanted to be and I now have the life I’ve always wanted to have. And by the way, how can I help you with what I know?”
What could be more exciting and fulfilling?