Retirement is a word, but is it the right word?
There never was a truer affirmation of the saying “it’s the journey not the destination” than in the case of life in retirement. The destination is inevitable, but the farther off the better. In the meantime, there is the journey.
Let’s take a look at the word “retirement.” What does it mean and is it an accurate depiction of what can be the best years of one’s life? My Little Oxford Dictionary defines retirement using the words withdrawal, retreat, recede, seclusion and to go to bed! No wonder pre-¬retirement jitters drive many to put off the day as long as they can.
A better word for the post-work life stage is “liberation.” For me, after years of being captive to an agenda set by objectives and circumstances (most of which, admittedly, were self-inflicted from a desire to succeed), my life became my own again. While sand seems to slip through the hour glass faster and faster as one ages, time formerly occupied by meetings and business travel opens up and creates endless opportunities to use “liberation” time doing what you want to do, when you want to do it.
So what to do?
What a luxury to even be able to ask the question. But starting with a blank slate can be frightening. “What do you do in a typical week, Tim?” asked a former colleague recently. “My favourite morning is to wake up with nothing to do” I replied. “Sacrilege” my colleague thought. He had a vision of me lazing around bored silly.
My vision was the opportunity to get to that box of First World War books and diaries left to me by my father and start piecing together the story that he, like so many WWI survivors, chose not to tell. Then, there are the family movies and pictures going back decades that languish in another box. And then there is the banking to do, the dog to walk, the news to read, the children to call, the repairs to make, the trips to plan, the music to listen to, the books to read, the friends to meet, the causes to support and the aging body to exercise.
All at my pace, under my control.
Rather than call it retirement, let me refer to this period as “post work.” It generally accompanies three stages of physical ability: go go, slow go and no go (financial outflows follow a similar pattern).
It is important to recognize change and, if necessary, to change spending habits. For many, saving and planning for the future becomes a way of life. But when the future leaves a mere few decades ahead, in addition to leaving money to the next generation or other worthy causes, the time for harvesting the fruits of your labour is upon you. There’s no better time to do this than in the “go go” period, when the physical and financial stars are aligned.
When a friend once said to me, “Financial planning? All I want is for my last dollar to run out at the same time as I do”, I thought “Heresy.” After all, my lifelong personal, business and vocational focus had been to help others build their wealth, growing the company I founded in 1972, T.E. Wealth, into a national enterprise in doing so. My values have not changed. What has changed is that the time has come to enjoy the harvest.
Enough of money. Let’s take a look at time.
There is more of it during the post work period, and yet, there is less. More because your time is your own, but less because it is running out. One thing that saves time, and yet consumes it too, is personal technology.
Keeping up is hard to do and yet letting go is not easy either. Through the wonders of the internet, I can listen to radio from around the world, and watch video streaming when and how I want. I can arrange travel plans down to the tiniest detail. I can call and see relatives and friends in distant lands. I can put together family videos with music and sound effects just like a professional. I can research any subject at the push of a button.
And, yet! I can spend an entire morning trying to solve a glitch on my laptop. I can consume hours on the phone being directed down every imaginable self-service alternative before being able to speak to an actual human being. And even then, there is no guarantee that I’m through to the right person or that we speak the same “tech¬speak” that is needed to explain the problem even before it is solved.
Then, there are the pitfalls of auto¬correct spell checks where a quickly crafted email sent without careful proofing can get the writer into big trouble. “Dear Mary, It was gator to eat you and the kilts toad” rather than “Dear Mary, It was great to see you and the kids today.” All this, in addition to the constant attempts of crooks trying to con you into giving them your password by pretending to be Apple or Microsoft or your bank.
Another adjustment is the loss of status.
An aging exterior may no longer command the admiration it did in one’s forties. Being an ex¬-executive erases the fuss, glitter and attention paid to a title. You become just you, one of the masses. Put your executive ego to bed. Most corporate professionals are very accustomed to delegating work to subordinates either because it is a poor use of their time to do it themselves, or because the subordinate has a superior knowledge of the area in question.
In the post work world, there are few to whom work can be delegated. As a result, much learning and re¬learning is to be done. You’re on your own. Enjoy it. And on the subjects of learning and technology, there is no longer any excuse for those conversations that went: “I wonder what happened to that actor who was in, you know, the movie about the uprising in the country in Africa or was it South America? You know. He was married to that blond actress who divorced the actor who was in………” With the tiniest thread of a fact, all questions can be answered by a search online. And not only can questions be answered – but desires fulfilled.
If you like a piece of music, the sound of a book or want to research your favourite subject, with a couple of clicks, there it is – yours for the taking. Socially and culturally, a plethora of opportunities await you in post retirement. University lectures without exams, choirs for non-singers, walking for non-¬hikers, cycling tours with baggage delivery.
Keeping your hand in the work world through directorships or consulting contracts works for some. The list goes on, but I must return to the more mundane yet equally important aspects of day¬-to-¬day living.
Not only do you have time to do more, but you have the time to do it better.
Gone are the days of flying by the seat of one’s pants as a multi¬tasker. In the post work period, you can take your time. It is yours for the taking. Use it well. Even the simplest of activities can bring immense pleasure.
If you have grandchildren, you may be surprised at how much time they can consume. But what a joy to have the time to listen to them, to help them, and to celebrate their successes and ease their worries. You may cringe at the thought of simple routines but, to many, walking the dog, a daily stroll to pick up coffee and read a newspaper, a game of tennis or a round of golf, all of these activities contribute to completing the post work jigsaw puzzle with no missing pieces.
So if you are suffering from pre¬retirement jitters, fear not. When you hear people in retirement wonder how they found time for a job, they’re not kidding. Not that there is anything wrong with working, but neither is their anything wrong with retirement – except the word itself.
Tim Egan, Founder, T.E. Wealth