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The things no one tells you about retirement

Seeing is believing: unless you did some critical financial calculations before you retired, you are probably overspending and eating into your savings

For the last year of your working life you counted the days until you would be free like a kid looking forward to Christmas.

You calculated your retirement income, filled out all the paperwork, and tried to look suitably demure at the farewell drinks party organised by your envious co-workers as you unwrapped your parting gift.

Whenever anyone asked you what you were going to do with all your time you enthusiastically replied, “Sleep in!”

“Atta boy mate,” everyone said. “You’ve earned it!”

And sleep you did, for two days straight.

On the third day, however, you awoke at six, showered, dressed and breakfasted all before the stroke of eight.

In fact, you were actually reaching for your car keys when a thought occurred to you that made your heart sink, you are retired … just where do you think you are going at this hour of the morning?

Repelling yourself into the nearest chair it finally hits you — what are you going to do with the rest of your life?

A good hour later you still don’t have a clue, but your golf clubs seem to be beckoning, or it occurs to you that the car needs washing, or the dog conveniently presents himself to be walked and you shrug it off. If you pace yourself, you will be good until lunch.

And so, the days continue along these lines for the next while. A hazy blur of invented busyness, interspersed with occasional grandparent-ing duties and trips to the grocery store.

If this is your blissful reality, read no further, your retirement dream is right on track.

However, if this scenario is your all too familiar nightmare, take heart — you can “change your stars” but it’s going to take some work and you may not like some of it.

Retirement, as they say, is not for the faint of heart.

The first step to changing the course of your retirement life is to admit to yourself and anyone that you live with that this life of perpetual nothingness isn’t working.

It might be tempting to sulk about the house taking your frustration out on others, but you know deep down that you are the one who got yourself into this mess and you are going to have to be the one to fix it.

Secondly, unless you did some critical financial calculations before you left work, you are probably either overspending and eating into your savings, or you have recently discovered that you do not in fact have a sufficient monthly income to indulge in the endless cruises and dinners out that all the television commercials you watched during the last 20 years assured you would be your lifestyle.

In either case, it is critical that you now make a monthly budget which includes only your actual retirement income (not your savings account) and tracks exactly where every last dollar of your retirement income is going.

By doing this: (a) you will have something to do, (b) you will discover things about what you and your life partner actually classify as necessities (which should make for some interesting conversation), and (c) you will begin to come up with ways to save money to either balance your monthly budget, or allow for a few more activities and outings.

Thirdly, until you come up with a better idea, get yourself out of the house at least three times a week to do something social, or better yet, volunteer your time to one of the local charities.

Nothing makes you feel better faster than helping someone who has a bigger problem than your own or contributing to a cause that is greater than yourself.

If there does not happen to be a charity that interests you — start your own volunteer project. After all, you’ve got the time.

The No 1 thing that no one ever tells you about retirement is that it is either a life sentence, or an endless journey of self-discovery.

It is entirely up to you, which way your life turns out.

Robin Trimingham is an author and thought leader in the field of retirement who specialises in helping corporate groups and individuals understand and prepare for a new life beyond work. Contact her at www.olderhoodgroup.com, 538-8937 or robin@olderhood.com