Are you about to retire, or do you know of someone who has retired? If so, read on. And even if retirement seems a very long way away, you will see that the key to a satisfying retirement is preparation. So even if you are young, you might still find value in considering the issues well in advance.
Retirement is often considered a rite of passage... as inevitable as the birthdays that signal its oncoming. Although some of us do dread not having office to go to and nothing to look forward to, no break in the monotony - for many retirement is something to look forward to - a time when, as Khalil Gibran puts it, time is no longer money and hence we can spend it as we like!
So what differentiates a successful retiree from one who is not- the answer is simple. The ones who have transitioned comfortably from their working lives to being retired are the ones who have managed to hold on to the aspects of their life that functions effectively for them, those that bring meaning, without holding on to the past. That doesn't seem easy? Well, all it requires is for one to let go of the past and look forward to exploring new horizons! In simple words it calls for positive thinking - to consider it as a welcome change rather than one that we dread and try to delay... to think of all the time to engage in things one never had the time for... to take oneself off the back burner after years of hard work for the sake of the family and kids and the home loan... finally being able to kick off the shoes, put up your feet and let others do the running around!
Apart from approaching it positively, there are some simple steps outlined below to help you or your loved one make this transition, while keeping in mind the challenges that retirement brings along.
-Not being needed This is one of the biggest challenges one faces after hanging up the work boots - suddenly there are no crises to solve at work, and almost no one comes asking for directions. Most of the time the children are too involved in their own lives and do not need to be taken care of. One can even feel that the spouse doesn't need them.
-Loss of Identity
Since work forms such a large part of our identity, without work we feel like a "nobody". It becomes difficult to define oneself without having the description of a profession. "I used to be an *Investment Banker* at an MNC, but who am I now?"
Change is known to be the biggest stressor - even positive life-changes like marriage and having a baby can be sources of tremendous stress as we are suddenly in unknown territory. Familiarity does bring comfort and not knowing what is going to come along can create anxiety and a feeling of loss of control.
Initially not having to wake up every morning and rushing to work can be a great relief; one has all the time to meet relatives, play cards, tend the garden... but as someone has very rightly said "The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off" After looking forward to this "time" for so long many retirees often face a feeling of let-down, similar to that of newlyweds who must settle down to the business of daily life once the honeymoon is over. Unfortunately retirement is not a permanent vacation after all; feelings of sadness, boredom and even disillusionment are also a part of the deal.
This being amongst the greatest challenges, one tends to look back over life and think about the unfulfilled dreams and ambitions. Like a cancer the regret can grow unabated and eat into one's peace often leading to depression and hopelessness.
What you can do
Since the change and unfamiliarity can be quite disconcerting, one needs to plan beforehand. Having a clear plan (sometimes a backup contingency plan as well) also gives one a sense of control of knowing what to expect. So take some time and plan how you want your life to be post-retirement. Take into consideration what situations may arise and think of options to overcome them. Plan for activities that will keep you occupied (investing in stocks, taking up a hobby, travelling, taking up a new project, or even starting a small business that will keep you busy as well serve as a source of income).
Although work forms a large part of who we are, work is not the only thing that defines us, it's not the sum total of who we can be. Focus on building a more rounded sense of self, develop interests and activities outside work, invest time and energy in aspects that would bring meaning to your life - and don't wait till you are 55 to begin this process! Start young, develop interests and hobbies, invest in friendships and relationships that will last long after you have served your last day at work. Remember you do have talents and abilities, so put them to good use.
The sad truth is one feels respected as long as one contributes in some way or the other. So make sure you contribute to your family, to the neighbourhood, to the society perhaps. Volunteer to spend time with those less fortunate, use your experience to mentor youngsters, drive projects to make the neighbourhood or society a better place, or just help your grandchildren learn the lessons of life with your stories! As Harry Emerson Fosdick says, "Don't simply retire from something; have something to retire to."
As one slows down and settles into retirement, one also begins to look back into one's life and accomplishments. Unachieved goals tend to make us feel despair, while if we think of ourselves as having led happy and productive lives, we feel content. Acceptance of how things have been in important in resulting in what is known as ego-integrity. The main question to ask oneself is "Have I led a full life?" Focus on all that you have done rather than the roads you didn't walk down, look for struggles and efforts rather than accolades.
If you have retired or are on the verge of retirement, work out these steps and if you are still young, keep these in mind as you take your decisions!