What Will Retirement Be Like?
“It will be great to do what I want when I want.”
“Whew, no more office politics to deal with!”
“At last, the government will be paying me for a change.”
“I’m finally F-R-E-E-E-E!!!”
These statements reflect some of the positive things about retirement that almost everyone looks forward to. Unless it’s due to illness, the reason most retirees leave their jobs is because they want to, not because they’re pushed out. So for most, that last day on the job is a joyful one filled with an invigorating sense of personal freedom.
But many retirees are not prepared for another feeling that often follows that last day of work: a profound sense of loss.
You’ve Got Company
A study sponsored by Civic Ventures, Temple University, and the Center for Intergenerational Learning surveyed retired people of all economic levels, and found that the majority had one thing in common: They felt lonely. It wasn’t for lack of friends, family and active social lives. Instead, it was a loneliness for the kinds of relationships they had established during their working years. Almost all workers are part of teams of some kind, and those teams have daily problems to solve, solutions to work out, new ideas to introduce.
An architect who spent her life drawing plans had an office full of people who understood her work and appreciated her creative new ideas. A science teacher of many years had near-celebrity status among his peers and his students, who always seemed to be talking about the cool things they were learning in his class. The manager of quality-control at an auto-assembly plant felt pride in his team and got a special thrill each fall when the new models came out and he saw them on the road.
At retirement, they may all have one thing in common: loss of a sense of purpose. The architect’s purpose was to create satisfying designs, the teacher’s to stimulate young minds, the quality-control manager’s to assure that his company’s products measured up to top standards. What will replace the job satisfactions that were so much a part of their identities?
These days, with rumblings that social security might not last and with health care costs escalating alarmingly, many retirees find that instead of feeling the total freedom they dreamed about, they are haunted by worries about whether they have enough money saved to actually enjoy their retired years. The fact that people are living so much longer than they did a decade ago should seem like good news-but the prospect of how to finance all those extra years is troublesome to many people when they leave the workforce.
It’s a fact that retirement can be an unsettling time. But it doesn’t have to be.
Many people have a different view of retirement. One respondent in the study mentioned above said: “I like to think of myself as retiring TO something as opposed to retiring FROM something.”
In other words, retirement shouldn’t be a stopping point, but a continuation of the journey through life. Why toss all the experience you’ve gained through years of working? You’re one of the “wise ones” now. There are people out there who value you.
A 2005 comprehensive study released by AARP and Towers Perrin, a human resources consulting firm, showed that many employers are beginning to recognize the value of older workers. It’s that old-fashioned work ethic-you know, expecting to actually show up on time and give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage. In its September, 2006, Bulletin, AARP honored 50 US employers who are “friendly” to older workers.
But doesn’t going back to work defeat the whole idea of being retired? Isn’t it supposed to be time to stop showing up for work when someone else says you should? You wanted freedom, remember? Do you have to give that up to regain that sense of purpose?
Thousands of people of all ages are making money in home businesses that allow them to be their own bosses and retain the exhilaration of the freedom to run their own lives. At the same time, they’re able to generate extra income to bulk up the nest egg and provide substantially more financial security for the 20, 30 or more years to come. Freedom from financial worry is just as important as freedom from job demands if you’re going to enjoy the rest of your life. And as a home-based entrepreneur, you can still enjoy all the dreams you planned. As long as you have a computer and a phone, you can run your “home” business from anywhere you call home-including your vacation cottage, RV, or even your favorite beach.
If you’re retired, or soon will be, now is the time to get started. You already have the skills you need. With a little extra help from the experts, you can fine-tune them and start right away to put a sense of purpose back in your life.