Building a bridge from work to post-work

Retirement is a transition in life, and one of the major ones at that. 

Reading some research from Harvard University, I found this useful concept: the identity bridge. 

What is this bridge? It is about finding a form of continuity, hence building a bridge, between your identity pre-retirement and post-retirement. To put it differently, to connect “who was I?” when I worked to “who am I?” post-work.

Some concrete ideas for this “bridge” will help to explain the concept better.

1.  Return to a long-neglected passion e.g. gardening. Or carry over some work-based skills in a volunteering capacity.

2.  Maintain a sense of being valued: as you experienced it at work. Friends and family may provide this.

3.  Hold tightly to certain core beliefs of yours, such as optimism, to help guide you through the tricky transition of retirement.

4.  Open a business, but without the profit motive, based on something you have always wanted to do; say running a single malt whisky bar.

5.  Grandparenting. When you worked you didn’t have time to be an effective grandparent. Now you have that time post-work, you can increase your engagement with grandchildren.

The choice of which bridges to build is yours.

 Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.

An imaginary conversation that could really happen

Richard and Elizabeth were sitting at their kitchen table with their daughter Caroline drinking coffee. Richard, 65 years old, has recently retired after a very successful corporate career, whilst Elizabeth enjoys a very busy life of looking after their house and spending time with friends. Although they would never admit this, Caroline was their favourite child and one who could always speak the truth to her parents, particularly her father.

The conversation soon turned towards Richard and the difficulty he was having in the adjustment to life post work. Caroline knew that her parents were arguing frequently about the matter so, under the pretext of getting some advice on an intended apartment purchase for herself, she wanted to get to the bottom of these discontents. She was a helper who always tried to sort out family disputes if she could. The conversation went as follows.

Caroline: So Dad we’ve been talking for over an hour and you haven’t had much to add.

Elizabeth: Your father has been brooding a lot lately.

Caroline: I remember when I was young how you would come home to dinner each night after work and talk all throughout the meal.

Richard: That was because I had something to talk about. I loved my job. I really miss it.

Elizabeth: That’s in the past dear. Besides, you spend enough time on the internet Richard, you must have something to say, other than boring me with details about price discounts at the local supermarket.

Richard: I am only trying to help.

Elizabeth: That is precisely the job I have been doing for the last four decades and I am rather good at it, sorry but I don’t need help. 

Richard: I only want to be useful to you Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: I can answer that for you. Find a way to occupy yourself each day. Feel free to experiment.

Richard: That’s pretty harsh. I try.

Caroline: Whoa. C’mon let’s not get heated. Dad tell me what are your friends up to these days.

Elizabeth: Leading a life.

Richard: Now, now Liz. Well, Bill – you remember him, the guy with red hair, not that he has much of that any more – he is off travelling the world.

Caroline: That sounds really cool.

Elizabeth: Not for us. Bill doesn’t have grandchildren to care for.

Richard: True. Then there is Terry, he can’t stop working. He retired and then got so bored that he went straight back to work. They will take him out of there in a pine box for sure.

Caroline: You were never really the sporty type as I remember.

Elizabeth: You used to play a lot of golf when you worked. 

Richard: That oiled the wheels of business, I wasn’t really any good.

Caroline: You can’t play every day, that’s what professionals do.

Richard: Too right.

Elizabeth: It might help to keep the weight off.

Richard: I’m trying with my diet.

Caroline: You look great Dad, don’t worry. Hey Dad you were always the life of the party: jokes, stories to tell, you love an audience. 

Richard: I got that from my colleagues at work. Great bunch, but they aren’t in my life any more.

Elizabeth: Then make some friends.

Caroline: Exactly Mum.

Richard: How do I do that. Do you want me to hang around with senior citizens.

Elizabeth: That’s so negative Richard. Everyone has something to add, something to say that is interesting in its own way. 

Caroline: Join a club. Make friends at your local coffee shop. Take up a course. Find something you love doing and meet other people that way. I hear tell of retired people – sorry to use that word Dad it’s so negative – who are so busy that their feet don’t even touch the ground.

Elizabeth: I like the sound of that.

Richard: So you want to get rid of me.

Elizabeth: Not at all. I want the old Richard back. The one who was busy all day and then came home with tales to tell and talk to share. That’s what I want.

Caroline: As I said before, that is how I remember you Dad.

Elizabeth: I think they call that a legacy.

Richard: Don’t worry Caroline there will be plenty of money left for you after we pop off this planet.

Caroline: Oh Dad that is so silly. That is not what Mum meant.

Elizabeth: Thanks Caroline; I meant how other people will remember you, not your money.

Richard: I don’t understand.

Elizabeth: You could do some charity work or mentor some people at your old workplace, I don’t know, go out and talk to people and find out for yourself. You never had a problem finding your own path at work.

Caroline: What Mum is trying to say is that there is a big world out there to explore. I can help you if you like.

Richard: No thanks darling, you have your own life to lead, I can look after myself.

Elizabeth: I’m glad to hear that.

Caroline: That’s it Dad, be your old positive self.

Elizabeth: Oh I forgot to ask you Richard, you haven’t talked about John. Didn’t he get some sort of an advisor to help him with his life after he sold his business? Certainly money was never the issue for him.

Richard; Oh yeah, he saw this retirement coach, I think is what he called himself. I was very skeptical at first but then John kind of transformed himself before my eyes. I could hardly believe it. He changed from this sad sack into a vibrant, interesting guy with so many friends and activities that I hardly get to see him anymore.

Caroline: I am catching up with his daughter Lucinda tonight, I’ll get the name of this coach.

Elizabeth: Please. And phone me tomorrow with his name, telephone number, website and email address. Alright Richard?

Richard: Sounds good to me. But there is one thing.

Caroline: What’s that Dad?

Elizabeth: I know what you want to say Richard and you know what, I don’t think retirement coaches charge a lot of money. You understand investments, think of it as amortizing the cost of your psychological well-being for the next few decades. Then all of a sudden it won’t seem like any money at all. That is certainly how I will view the matter.

Caroline: Mum’s right.

Richard: No she isn’t. That was not my question. It’s not the money, we can certainly afford that, and more. No, my question is this: just because a retirement coach was good for John, why should he be good for me?

Elizabeth: Oh Richard. As you know, life offers no certainties, but how good must it be to sit with someone for a number of sessions where the topic is you and only you; not politics, not overseas travel highlights, not finance, but you and your future.

Caroline: How good would that be. I almost want to be old enough to have a retirement coach myself.

Richard: So are you telling me that this retirement coach will listen to my life story, and then tell me what I need to do with my life.

Elizabeth: Yes and no. From what I understand he will certainly want to know about your work background and life more generally, but then his job consists in helping you to understand yourself better.

Caroline: Which, I think, means that he will assist you to come to your own conclusions about your life as a retired person; and what you want to achieve and how you want to occupy your time.

Richard: Come to think of it, that is what John told me about his experience. Those were pretty much his words.

Elizabeth: I know you trust John and you certainly can’t get a better endorsement than that.

Richard: Imagine someone listening carefully to my story, I like the sound of that. That doesn’t happen too often.

Caroline: Now, now Dad.

Richard: OK I will try it. Thanks Caroline.

Caroline: I am glad to help.

Elizabeth: I am glad to be helped.

THE END.

 Jon Glass Retirement Coach.

Jon runs a retirement coaching practice called 64 PLUS. Details can be found at www.64plus.com.auor by emailing jon@64plus.com.au.

Control

Somewhere in between absolute certainty and chaos we humans seek to exercise control over our lives. That is to say that we want to be at the wheel and steering the vehicle.

It’s trite to say that we can’t know the future. But, when it comes to our future as individuals, in between certainty and simple hope lies the possibility of having some level of control.

In the workplace we would like to think that we have some control over our destiny; few believe that there is certainty and – I imagine - even fewer close their eyes and hope for the best.

A simplified definition of a financial plan is that it sets you up for your financial future. Not with certainty because, for one thing, you won’t know when you will die. But at least it endows you with a feeling of partial control.

So too with the non-financial aspects of your retired life. By planning, talking and thinking you can establish some level of control over your emotional, social and familial life as you move into post-work.

With the help of a retirement coach you should be able to do this with even greater confidence than if you choose to DIY.

If you can’t have certainty in life then why not seek some control.

 Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.

STATUS STATUS STATUS

Do you remember those disco balls that rotated on the ceilings of discotheques, late at night, showing different colours and levels of brightness?

Well YOUR personal status at work is like that. How so? Its colours and brightness can look quite different to each person: you, your friends and family, and even society as a whole.

In other words, your status has as much to do with what you think it is as it has to do with how others might think about you.

Consider some different jobs and professions and their status levels:

·      Celebrities and sports stars. They tend to have very high status in the eyes of the public, and to their own eyes.

·      Doctors and teachers also have high status but (sadly), that seems to be on the wane in the broader society.

·      Politicians? That is another story.

So what happens to YOUR status when you retire from work? In simple terms, you leave and it stays behind. Either you will:

·      Not notice its absence. It may be good or bad that you didn’t;

·      Miss it terribly;

·      Be happy that it has gone.

 If your answer is the middle case then two questions arise:

1.   How do you intend to replace that lost status that you once had?

2.   How differently will other people think about you now if you don’t?

Perhaps a retirement coach can help you to think through the issues?

Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.

The matrix of life

Let’s discuss these three ages of man (Shakespeare, being much smarter, got to seven), by thinking of three decades across three different features of a life:

·       How much time do you have at your disposal

·       How much money do you have

·       How much energy do you have 

We derive (with N for no and Y for yes) in a rough and (possibly) uncontroversial way the following matrix:

 

Decades           Time          Money            Energy

20s                      Y                   N                      Y

40s                      N                   Y                       Y

60s                      Y                    Y                       N

 

How can this matrix apply to retirement? Perhaps a successful retirement for you may depend on the extent to which you can turn the RED N into a RED Y?

Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.

The retirement game: a brand new Aussie board game for two

Suitable for couples where the successful husband retires and is suddenly not himself.

The Retirement Game has its own set of rules:

Rule 1: The players are a husband and wife in their 60s. He has built a career over 40 years and she has been maintaining the family home. (I know it’s stereotyped, but it is only a game!)

Rule 2: The husband has recently retired and wants to join his wife in all her pursuits: shopping, golf, bridge, movies etc.

Rule 3: She already does these things, but without him and with her friends.

Rule 4: Each puts their counter at start. In turn, each rolls one die.

Rule 5: If the husband lands on “Get a life” he goes back two spaces. If the wife lands on “I have a life” she advances 2 spaces.

Rule 6: The first to reach start is the winner. 

Rule 7: If playing this game reveals issues that you can’t resolve then perhaps the husband would benefit from seeing a retirement coach. Here are the details:

Email: jon@64plus.com.au

Tel:     0409116766

Web:   www.64plus.com.au

 

Framing

 

“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. Hamlet.

Think of yourself looking through a window to the world outside. The window has a frame and this frame cuts out a section of the world for you to admire. But it’s only a small section, not the entire world, and you know that.

In addition, this concept of frame has an abstract cousin. For example, the world of advertising is very canny and exploits the difficulty we have in distinguishing 90% lean from 10% fat on a packet of beef. This is an abstract version of a frame and we have to decide which of those – lean or fat – we will use to make sense of our purchase. Even in our language we frequently hear the comparison between the glass half full and the glass half empty; over which definition optimists and pessimists compete.

In retirement you can also frame your outcomes. So, in your world of work you probably thought that you were time poor and constrained; whilst in retirement you can think that you will have acres of free time that will set you free.

Free to do what exactly? Free to experiment and settle on activities and a lifestyle that gives you pleasure. That has to be worthwhile.

Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.

Empty nest syndrome

Empty nest is the description of how it feels to be a parent all of whose children have grown up and left home. They say that this can be a difficult transition in the life of the parents; that may bring forward the emotion of loss or of sadness.

It reminds me of that other transition which I always blog about: retirement. Both are transitions, both can involve profound change that leads to negative feelings. In the case of retirement this is typically a loss of meaning.

 But with the empty nest there are clearly some benefits to dwell on:

·      The house becomes instantly tidier as there are fewer people to make a mess.

(This is even before the Marie Kondo moment);

·      Financially there are fewer dependents in the house;

·      The consumption of food in the refrigerator is now controlled by the parents;

·      The car belongs to its owners.

Are these benefits enough to outweigh the negatives mentioned above? How do you reconcile these two opposite feelings: missing the children on a daily basis whilst engaging positively with the changes caused by their absence?

These are good questions to ponder.

Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.

Three myths of retirement

What is retirement, how does it feel to be retired?

Before you go through the process of retirement yourself you can:

·      observe and/or talk to all the retired people you can;

·      not think about it at all;

however you will likely still be hostage to some foundational myths about retirement. Here are three:

1)   Retirement is all about how much money you have. Well yes, it is probably good to have more money than less but it turns out that the emotional aspects of retirement are much bigger than this.

2)   Retirement is the phase of life where everything becomes easy. I don’t really know what “easy” might mean; but the truth is that all stages of life present problems.

3)   Retirement represents a dead end of life. I would say no to that: it’s as lively and challenging and exciting as you want to make it.

If you think about some of these myths more deeply you will get closer to understanding what you can make of your own retirement. It’s worth the effort, and a retirement coach can assist with this process.

Retirement: You won’t know what it is like until you get there.

Meaning and measurement in retirement

Thinking of your career, how many were the ways in which your success was recognised, and even rewarded?

Perhaps you received a promotion, a new job title, a pay rise, a bonus or maybe a worthwhile pat on the back.

In retirement such things don’t happen, or if they do it’s in a different way. You may have a struggle on your hands in the absence of such clear and tangible validation in retirement. But there is always an answer. 

If, for example, you engage in voluntary work then the reward can come in the form of a show of appreciation from those you have helped.

On the other hand, you may enlarge your circle of friends and gather appreciation from them for the friend that you are.

In another direction, you may simply enjoy the dawning of each new day and the possibilities it brings you.

In summary, a retirement coach can help you to frame your thoughts on this critical topic. 

Retirement: You won’t know that it is like until you get there.