Every day in the United States, thousands of baby boomers are turning 65. No wonder many of us hear about friends and family that are retiring or at least talking about it. I have several friends that took the big step.
Recently, I had lunch with two of those friends, long time Everett residents, Tracy Spencer M.D., retired physician and Jack Courrier D.D.S, retired dentist. Both practiced in Everett for over 30 years! Tracy and his wife are taking care of his mom, Dixie, who is turning 96 this summer. They love to chase after three grandchildren that live right down the street. Jack is on the board of several community organizations and will be running in his first Boston marathon. Both feel fulfilled and content in their retirement.
One friend, who worked for the state of California for almost 30 years, was growing frustrated with his job. Deciding to retire was easy for him. He told me—“Some people worry about falling into a deep depression after they retire. I am expecting to fall into a deep elation!” As far as I can see, his expectations have been met!
While I’m only 63, I have no interest in retiring any time soon. I love my job and the company I work for! And, I sense that I wouldn’t do so well in retirement. I suspect that I might get in my wife’s hair, who works from home. And like most working stiffs, who might want to sleep in on Monday morning if I had my druthers, the structure of work is good for me. Sure, I have hobbies and interests, but they are organized around the work week. I am not so confident that I would do well with wide open spaces of free time.
I see this frequently. Joe retires from Boeing and can’t wait to sleep in on Monday morning and spend his free time fishing, hunting, and puttering around in his wood shop. The first couple of weeks are great! He loves sleeping in and not worrying about when he has to go to bed. But after a month or two, he notices that he is getting less and less done. He’s still sleeping in, but now he starts to feel sluggish. And, what’s worse, he doesn’t know what to do with himself. He’s watching a lot of TV, but hasn’t done as much fishing or hunting as he thought he would. He’s been out to his shop—but isn’t really sure what project to start.
Let’s be realistic. Retirement is a huge life change for most adults. In my experience, women tend to do better than men. In our society, female identity tends to center around their relationships and social roles—wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend. Many women retire and spend more time with family and friends.
Typically, male identity revolves around work—as do their relationships. Being a breadwinner, a mechanic, a lawyer, or a carpenter defines male identity. Furthermore, many men (and women) do very well when they have a structure, but may take that structure for granted. Having to be somewhere 9 a.m. on Monday morning provides a shape to the week that might not be present otherwise.
Eventually, everyone must stop work. The goal-- prepare effectively for that day, so that when it comes, adults are ready to make a transition into a different lifestyle.
Here are some important points to consider:
Plan Ahead. Just as in other big life changes, it is important to think ahead. What will I do with my free time? What hobbies or activities will I pursue? How will I structure my time? What may be some of my problem areas? What are my expectations? Are they realistic?
Talk to your spouse. Negotiating turf issues is very important. All of sudden couples may be spending more time to together than they ever have. Some of that may be positive. But it is possible to get in your partner’s way, without realizing it.
Establish realistic expectations. All life change has its positive and negative aspects. What’s important is to recognize that there will be bumps in the road. Be prepared for them.
Have you thought about retirement?