I’ve read a slew of books about retirement. After spending years researching the retirement of Canadians, I’m often urged to write my own book. But I’ve never read a book like The Retirement Maze: What you should know before and after you retire by Rob Pascale, Louis H. Primavera, and Rip Roach.
It’s not about the usual retirement topics of finances or health. Instead, the focus is on the difficult business of adjusting to being retired.
Retirement = building a new life
If you think it’s an easy adjustment, this book has news for you. Its three authors are professional researchers whose comprehensive study of recent retirees and people not yet retired is both sobering and helpful. The people studied are American, but the issues explored apply equally to Canadians.
The key problem the research identified is that with few exceptions, retirees (and those nearing retirement):
- Do very little planning
- Don’t plan in enough detail
- Don’t plan for anything but finances
What happens if you retire without planning appropriately? It’s not as pretty a picture as you see in those travel or financial services ads:
- Only half of retirees feel their lives improved after retiring.
- Nearly half of those retired five-plus years haven’t found something to be passionate about.
- As workplace friendships fade, you may not replace them.
- You’ll spend less time socializing in retirement than while you were working.
- Like 45% of retirees, you may miss your old job.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
When you retire, you can no longer rely on a job to help define who you are, provide structure for your daily life or give you opportunities to socialize. Retirees find these are difficult gaps to fill, the authors say.
But defining who you want to be in retirement is key. Without making the effort, your life won’t be as rewarding as you hope. But after painting a fairly unappealing picture of the actual retirement many people are facing, the authors offer plenty of tips for a more successful adjustment.
- Introverts: Focus on replacing fading workplace relationships. Try new activities with social involvement. Look for organizations related to your personal interests. Use Facebook to reconnect with old friends. Seek work/volunteer opportunities. Focus on making new friends.
- Pushed into retirement? Develop your other roles (e.g., parent, spouse, gardener, golfer). Volunteer. Accept your role as a retiree (stop looking back). Consider a “bridge career” to carry you to your eventual retirement. Focus on the positives. Talk with your spouse/partner -- you aren’t the only one adjusting!
- Blue-collar workers: Be open to new things -- you’ve been in a highly structured work world, now it’s time to be more flexible. Maintain your health. Set new goals. Spend more time with friends, not just family.
- In a bad relationship? Put “make a friend” on your to-do list. Beware the emotional roller-coaster of retirement’s early years. Talk.
- Early retirees: Use your energy and talent to volunteer. Try to retire when your spouse/partner does. Be open to negotiating who does household chores. Create detailed plans for an active social life. Keep the option of working open.
- Procrastinators: Plan, plan, plan -- today! Learn from the experiences of others. Make an action plan. Track your expenses and income.
- Retiring before your spouse/partner? Focus on the “balance of power” in your relationship. Talk and plan together. Experiment with new interests.
- Women: Find ways to maintain your vitality and keep your relationships current.
- Men: Don’t rely on your spouse/partner for 100% of your social activity -- plan for it and add it to your to-do list. Negotiate your fair share of household chores.
- Everybody: Experiment to find new activities, passions and meaning. Get out of the house. Travel as much as your budget and mobility allow. Don’t let solo activities crowd out social ones. Help others. (Painting a friend’s living room feels better than painting your own!) Don’t let time with family crowd out time with friends. Exercise. If you’re worrying about money, find out if your worries are justified.
The typical retiree’s life isn’t a bowl of cherries, say the authors of this book. But they guide you on how you can pick the best fruit.