I received the following alert on my phone from that New York Times this past weekend: “Today’s women are much more likely to work into their 60s and 70s often full-time. And they’re doing it because they enjoy it.”
This may not mean much to you, but as a financial advisor who’s been helping people retire throughout most of my career, I appreciated the notice. It reaffirmed what I already know: Retirement is an artificial finish line.
Women and men are discovering that retirement is not a natural life transition. It’s an idea that’s been inflicted upon us by corporations and society. We’ve been indoctrinated into thinking that when you turn 65, it’s time to punch out and live a life of leisure. This may have worked for the previous generation, but that mindset is no longer sustainable. Pensions and institutional stewardship have gone the way of the dinosaur, and today more than ever we have to assume control over our own retirement planning.
Retiring is about more than just having enough money, though. It’s a major life transition that many people struggle with, and the struggle often has more to do with a static lifestyle than not receiving a regular paycheck.
Think about it: No one teaches us how to retire. I really don’t know of any retirement training classes being offered. On the other hand, retirement planning is a service that’s plentiful. But that’s more about funding your retirement; it’s not about creating a vision of what you want the rest of your life to look like. In fact, finding powerful reasons to get up in the morning during retirement will be as important as the financial planning.
This past week, Aretha Franklin announced that she’s retiring. In a statement she said, “I’m not going to go anywhere and just sit down and do nothing. That wouldn’t be good, either.” Well, if it’s not good for Aretha, it’s not good for you, either. What Aretha is really aiming for is balance. A balance between vocation and vacation. That’s what we should all aim for to enjoy a successful retirement. After all, I don’t think any of us want to withdraw completely from the track of relevance.
To achieve a healthy balance between vocation and vacation requires planning. Did you know we’re more apt to spend time planning a two-week vacation than we are to spend time planning a possible 30-year retirement? Unlike a vacation, retirement is not the ultimate destination anymore. Stop buying into the destination myth because your life isn’t going to stop moving the day you retire. I’m reminded of that commercial in which everyone is assigned their own personal retirement number. The people in the commercial are so happy to know how much money they’ll need to retire that they write it on a large cardboard sign, attach a stick to it and carry it around with them all day long. Well, if my client’s life means nothing more than a number, then the planning will be about the destination. But let’s not reduce our lives to a story of numbers. Our lives are about more than that.
For most of us, working will no longer be an all or nothing proposition. It will be more of a “how much” proposition. In planning for a successful retirement, one with a balance between vocation and vacation, we need to start asking ourselves questions beyond money. How will you invest in yourself and your time?