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Retirement is not an extended vacation

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Retirement is not an extended vacation like many of us think. That’s the wrong way to approach retirement. Everyone has busy lives and work is a huge part of it. We spend over a third of our day at work, getting to work, and thinking about work. Work is stressful, takes up a huge amount of time, and requires a ton of effort to excel in your chosen field. In contrast, retirement is easy street. You don’t have to meet a deadline. There are no weekly meetings with the boss. You don’t need to push yourself to exceed expectations every annual review. No more unpaid overtime, no more useless meetings, no more TPS reports, and no more dealing with jerks you don’t like. Doesn’t retirement sound amazing?

Sorry, this is the wrong way to look at retirement. It’s true that you don’t have to deal with work related crap anymore, but you also lose a lot of the positive things that a job brings. The steady paychecks, the few nice people you work with, the feeling of accomplishment, and most importantly the goals. Retirement is amazing, but you need to prepare for it and work at it to be successful. Workers who think retirement is just relaxing and doing nothing will have an unpleasant surprise waiting for them. Chilling out is nice for a few months, but not for the long term. It’s not good for your mental health to be aimless. There are a ton of stories on the internet about retirees falling into depression and wishing they hadn’t retired. You don’t want to be a part of that growing trend.

The problem is that most of us imagine retirement as a long vacation. Many retirees get a “sugar rush” of well-being and satisfaction immediately after retirement follow by a steady decline of happiness a few years later. Vacations are awesome for a few weeks, but would it continue to be great for 5, 10, or 20 years? Instead of approaching retirement like an endless vacation, we really should approach it like starting another career.

retirement is not a vacation

Retirement is not a vacation

To have a successful retirement, you need to plan for it. The most important thing is to retire on your own term and not be pushed into it. If you’re in your 50s, you really need to have an exit strategy because you are a prime candidate to be pushed out of your job. Corporations have no loyalty and they will go with younger, cheaper, and more driven workers when there is a downturn in the economy. The worst thing that can happen is to be pushed into retirement when you’re not ready for it.

How do you treat retirement like a career? Let’s see what we can adapt from my corporate days.

Money

“Money isn’t everything, but it ranks right up there with oxygen.” – Zig Ziglar

Let’s not focus too much on money today. Suffice to say, we need to have a plan to support ourselves in retirement. Don’t wait until you walked out the door to figure out how to maintain your lifestyle. For me, I choose passive income and part time self employment. For you? I don’t know. You have to figure it out yourself, but please have a solid plan in place before you’re 55.

Goals and purpose

You need reasons to get out of bed in the morning. When you’re working, you have projects and deadlines to meet. In retirement, the boss won’t be there to set goals for you. Many retirees have a difficult time adjusting to the unstructured schedule and find the lack of purpose depressing. We need short term and long term goals to keep life interesting. I set my short term goals every New Year and work on them throughout the year. I also have several long term goals like raising our kid, convincing Mrs. RB40 to retire early, and crossing items out of my bucket list. I’m sure everyone can come up with worthwhile goals and projects that they would like to work on if they think about it.

Social Interaction

Actually, accomplishing your goals might not be enough. I read that we need to be acknowledged for a job well done too. We need friends and family around us to encourage each other through the trials and tribulations of life. In the office we have colleagues to collaborate with and that’s often the missing piece in a retiree’s life.

It can be difficult to make new friends when you first retire especially if you’re an introvert like me. Volunteering for an organization you like is one good way to meet new people with a similar interest. If you have a fun hobby, you should see if there is a local club that you can join. You can also take some interesting classes and meet fellow students. You just have to push yourself and try to make a connection.

Lastly, it might be difficult, but it’s essential to catch up with old friends once in a while. Call them up and have lunch so you can see what’s going on in their lives. Actually, I’m guilty of letting things go too long. I really need to reconnect with some old friends soon.

Put some effort into it

Retirement isn’t a long vacation. You need to put some effort into it to make it enjoyable. Finance is just one piece of the puzzle. You need to set some goals to keep you motivated. It’s also crucial to have some social life so you’re connected to society.

What do you think? Is retirement an endless vacation or should you put some work into it?

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