Ever have a bad day at work and catch yourself daydreaming about what it’ll be like when you finally retire? Sure, everyone does.
Still, despite the perfect life we might imagine retirement to be, for a great many when retirement does come, it is met with anxiety and fear. I can hear you asking, “How can that be?”
First of all, there’s the money thing. Retiring means no more pay cheque, and for some reason the giant pile of money you accumulate to replace that paycheque suddenly doesn’t seem so big when you start taking from the pile instead of adding to it. We start to second-guess our carefully laid out long-term plans, and we scrutinize every purchase through a new filter. We are no longer using our next paycheque to buy that new coat, we are using our own money – money that we may in fact need to buy groceries with at age 95. In part, this is a good thing. But it does take a little of the glitter off of our grand retirement dreams.
The other thing is purpose. Despite the grind that work may appear to be, for a great many of us, it satisfies us in ways that nothing else (not even money) can. We are doing something of value. Sure, we can replace that – we can volunteer or take on more responsibilities with grandchildren. But it’s not quite the same. And it surprises me how many people discover this only after they pull the plug on a long career.
So, as the baby boomers go crashing into retirement phase we are seeing an unexpected phenomenon. They are working after they retire, or postponing their retirement well beyond the expectations of their youthful aspirations. Freedom 55 is long gone.
Retirement is no longer a full stop. It’s now a bend in the road. Maybe it’s cutting your hours down to a level that gives you all the time you need to do those other retirement things you dream about. Or maybe it’s leaving the job you have been wanting to escape from and finding something that makes you want to get up and go to work in the morning – despite the massive pay cut.
One of the biggest challenges we face in building retirement plans is the fact that with life expectancy extending well into our 90s, retirement can span 30 years or more. But one of the good things about that is that it gives us a lot more time to try different things. Maybe even a different career. In that sense, retirement could feel more like the end of college then the end of your working life. You may be closing out a chapter that was important in defining who you are. But, you may jump into a whole new life – with all of the exhilaration and potential growth that comes with a fresh start.
For a lot of folks, that’s hard to resist. That, and the on-going paycheque.