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Romanticizing Retirement - The Unexpected Truth

Having lived in Mexico for 6+ years now, I meet a lot of retirees and I meet many more who are approaching that time in their lives and contemplating what it really means to retire.

Unlike our parents, we have access to all kinds of information around the topic. The majority of articles that will appear at the top of your search will focus around the financial planning required: how much you need in savings, in retirement funds, budgeting, etc.

However, how often do we think about the mental and emotional preparation required?

As a Career Transition Coach, I come across people who romanticize retirement, only to feel like they've lost their identity and/or lack that mental stimulation. They no longer have purpose.

In the beginning, they think it's going to be full of daily rounds of golf, or tennis or pickleball matches. They'll have time to tackle all those things they didn't have time for when working 40, 60, 80 hours per week. We're going to learn to salsa! Or paint! Travel the world!!

(All great things!!)

The reality of it is that there is a mental and emotional shift needs to be considered.

Business people tend to identify with who they were in the corporate world. It might be difficult to go from getting daily affirmations:

"Great Job!"

"Congrats on the win!"

"You're so awesome!"

...To not getting any, or expecting daily affirmations from your spouse. Completely unfair to have those expectations, by the way. Oh how the ego suffers.

People in the Emergency Services industry go from experiencing high-impact adrenaline rushes from direct, hands-on experience with daily trauma and helping people, to nothing. No action. No high-stress activity. They feel that they no longer have purpose so many hang out at the station, trying to get their adrenaline fill. This is, apparently, very common.

Retired police personnel have some of the highest rates of suicide.

Couples tend to look forward to retirement as they can begin to plan activities that they didn't have the opportunity to pursue while working. Obviously, retirement can be fulfilling and enjoyable. However, it can also create a lot of stress in relationships.

We go from having some semblance of independence and time to ourselves to being together 24/7. Expectations that our significant other is going to be available for us 100% of the time arise. There is a new and often unwelcome dependency. Routines become disrupted. The kids are gone. The reasons for working together as a couple have flown the coop. We discover that we no longer have things in common, or we just don't like to be around one another for extended periods of time.

So, what is your definition and/or expectation of retirement?

For me, retirement didn't mean "do nothing". It meant letting go of the 9-5 grind; no longer working for someone else; cutting back on work to focus more on what I want to do, for me. It meant working together, at the time, as a couple, while maintaining our independence.

In my case, it meant no longer working under the direction and constraints of a corporation, but finding my own purpose; figuring out that which will give me a sense of purpose and satisfaction.

For some, that purpose and satisfaction may come in the form of volunteer work, or consulting, or a side-hustle created by a creative talent.

The bottom line is this: in retirement, most of us still need that mental stimulation, independence, individuality, and purpose.

If you are in a relationship, please begin the discussions prior to retirement, and be sure to keep the dialogue going. What may seem initially exciting for both of you can turn into annoyance and resentment. Try to remember what brought you together and how you can enjoy the golden years together....

Lastly, if you are approaching retirement and need a little help uncovering your purpose, contact me!

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