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Money is only one of the challenges of retirement

Part two of “Thinking of retiring – don’t.” Instead, start your journey to the Age of Enlightenment.

Thousands of articles have been written about retirement financial planning, spending before and after, managing investments for income needs, and so on. Often though, said articles, while generally offering good financial encouragement, may seem somewhat generic, or written by individuals so young in an oldster’s mind, they could not possibly understand the perceived challenges inherent in the retirement process.

Further, the focus is mostly financial, with less relative to the soon-to-be retiree’s mental health, relationships, and lifestyle changes – even more significant than the money concern.

Dear readers, understand that my retirement columns are not unique, but what I can offer is a different perspective on planning, anticipating the third journey long before it arrives, and illustrative (always anonymous) real-life situations accumulated from more than 35 years as a qualified international financial planning practitioner. Credibly, also, these observations are relatively common, so cannot be attributed to any individual, couple, or relationship.

Withdrawal symptoms: if you allow yourself to be defined by your job, then retirement could be psychologically challenging

I would also add that not everyone struggles with retirement and its possible, dramatic life changes. Realistic in anticipation, embracing a satisfactory lifestyle as it happens, some individuals have figured it out.

However, not so for many.

After the finalisation of a normal work career is over, the trips, acquiring fun stuff, redecorating, leisure time activities, and “freedom” celebrations, one morning the questions become a jolt to the psyche. “Is that all there is?” Reminiscent of the ballad á la Peggy Lee 1969, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

These are some of the most vital items needed for navigation on the journey to the age of enlightenment

• A purpose in life

• A healthy identity

• Valuing yourself and who you have become

• A decent level of health

• Independence and equality in positive, shared vision relationship(s)

• A flexible long-tailed commitment to develop multifaceted skills for your planned journey

• Rejection of old-age and other stereotypes, both subliminal and explicit

• Moving past the accumulation phase in life.

What, you think – where is the bit about enough money?

That, too.

Readers who are possibly aeons away from retirement, may want to stop here. You think: “This is got nothing to do with me, currently.”

Oh, but it does. The psychological and physical elements above are critical components in the ability to embrace any current situation, turning it to a positive, adapting quickly to new careers, new businesses, new technology, enhancing rescaling of a job to multi-parallel careers. One prominent job, the rest fallback positions, but all viable alternatives.

The sooner you think about what you will do and where you will be as olderhood approaches, the better you can lay out your gradual long-term career/home life plan.

First, let’s address the question of what makes you who you are. How do you define your identity for yourself and your value relative to others? Has this valuation changed?

Men, particularly in previous generations, say up until the late 1970s, because they were, or are still in some societies, considered the only breadwinners and were defined by their work. The goal was to climb the corporate ladder, singular I might add, just one employer for an entire work life of 40 to 50 years.

Their work identity became the quantifier and qualifier of what they did: for their employer, what they earned, their value to their families, what their stature in the community was, and how they saw themselves reflected in the mirror of public opinion.

The greater the perceived business/trade/professional success the more implicit the respect surrounding the individual. While women were gradually entering the workforce, then rapidly in droves, the job-for-life tenet appeared to remain for a while longer.

The unanticipated epic mass layoff waves of the 1980s and 1990s in the US, UK, and globally, was seen as increasing shareholder value with cost cutting that eliminated older (expensive dinosaur) employees. Too young to retire, yet too old to reinvent their job skills, with little broad retraining available, these individuals had few options for an equivalent salaried position. Most debilitating, their entire identity and self-worth were defined by their jobs. Some gave up, entirely.

A tale of that generation.

Roger (identity disguised), worked his whole life for one firm – 45 years. He loved his job. He was a skilled, but one dimensional company man. As retirement neared, he joked about time to “do whatever he wanted”. The day he left, his manager provided a small office – for a short period to finalise retirement paperwork.

He sat home for two days, then started going to the office every day, trying to sit in on meetings, interjecting advice on company strategies, etc.

Finally, management had to inform Roger that as he was no longer an employee, he had to vacate the premises, permanently.

Identity shattered, purpose in life gone, Roger, from then on, spent every day at the local pub. He passed away within a year.

What does this have to do with retirement in the 21st century?

Because you cannot build your entire self-worth and identity from your job or career. In today’s world it is what you know, and what you continue to learn to enhance your skills that defines your self-worth, value to yourself and everyone else.

You can’t be complacent; you can’t rest on your accomplishments; you must be vigilant – looking for opportunities for the future revenue generators in your upward-working trajectory. The more you know, the more you are prepared for any company’s abrupt strategic move, while your greater knowledge flexibility will prepare you for any job reclassification, even possibly becoming your own boss.

Versatility is the name of the game. It is a vital component of your contingency plan.

Stay tuned for part 3 – Rewire retirement.

References

The Guardian, “Five ways work will change in the future”, by Killian Fox and Joanne O'Connor, https://tinyurl.com/zto6gax

The Guardian, “My father had one job in his life, I've had six in mine, my kids will have six at the same time”, https://tinyurl.com/yejphu9g

McKinsey: “Covid and the Need for New Workforce Skills”, https://tinyurl.com/kb9w9dkz

Martha Harris Myron, CPA JSM, a native Bermudian, is a retired qualified international cross-border financial planner, and the author of The Bermuda Islander Financial Planning Primers, international financial consultant to the Olderhood Group Limited, and financial columnist to The Royal Gazette. All proceeds from these articles are donated by The Royal Gazette to the Salvation Army, Bermuda. Contact: martha@pondstraddler.com

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Published August 07, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated August 09, 2021 at 8:04 am)

Money is only one of the challenges of retirement

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