The price you pay

Thomas Babington Macaulay wrote - in 1834 – that almost every physical job has a tendency to cause some sort of injury in the practitioner, for example:

“Grinders of cutlery die of consumption; weavers are stunted in their growth; smiths become blear-eyed.”

Whatever job you have, there may be a price you pay for it. Here are two contemporary examples.

We all know of workaholics who sacrifice the benefits of private life in pursuit of wealth or fame; or sportspeople who develop physical injury that can last a lifetime.

What can be said about the price we may pay in retirement? It depends. For those who are happy in retirement, just as for those who are content at work, we can say that the price is negligible.

But what about those people who haven’t found their meaning or purpose in retirement: could they be an unhappy burden on themselves and those close to them?

Is that a price that, as a retired person, you would want to pay?

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

Belonging in retirement

Belonging to social groups can be an important factor in retirement. 

I read some recent research that tracked the health and well-being of a sample of people in the 6-year period following their retirement.It turns out that belonging to social groups is a good thing.

Specifically, mortality rates fell significantly if people maintained contact with the social groups that they belonged to before retirement.

Intuitively, membership of a social group can make you feel good about yourself. It can also allow you to influence other people in a positive way which can also feed back into your personal well-being. Think of the social groups you belong to and the ways in which you benefit.

It also seems useful to belong to groups that share a common thread rather than groups that are incompatible. Intuitively, this commonality may further help you to build closer friendships, and connect people together.

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

 

 

Roles and the self

How many roles do you have/have you had/will you have in your life: daughter, father, neighbour, friend? Count them. It is an interesting exercise in itself. Can we add worker to the list?

Whilst you are working, whether self-employed or employed, there is another role. For example, you are a teacher, a train driver, a salesman: all well-defined; others roles may involve work that is not so clear to our society.

How is your sense of self, your identity and meaning, bound up with your roles? Very obviously. To cite 3 examples; I think of the mutual obligations of parent to child, worker to employer, or the ethics of practising as a doctor. Now let’s set this in the context of postwork.

Here the roles you assume may be voluntary (flute-player) or imposed upon you (grandparent); and the big question is the following.

How do these roles fit your self, your identity, your meaning in life. The point is that you are now free to choose how YOU engage with each role; i.e. your level of commitment and energy. Think about it, as you now have that luxury. Enjoy your roles to the extent that you want.

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

The what and why of retirement

Think of a typical conversation with a group of friends in which you hit on a topic of common interest: politics, superannuation etc. Then there will be a great deal of “what” – swapping of opinions – but few “why” -this matters to me because…..

One reason for this is that the “what” is usually factual whereas the “why” is often emotional; therefore best avoided. What has this to do with retirement coaching?

Well, when you work there is a great deal of “what”: job title, tasks you engage in, the huge amount of time you spend at work and so on. However the “why” can get left unsaid.

Examples of this are: your identity that you forged at work, the meaning to you of routine at work; the validation that work bestowed on you, to name a few. Now emotions can enter with the help of a retirement coach.

This is because you should try to replace the meaning, validation and identity with a new version of yourself postwork. This is not easy to do, but a good coach can help you to develop that self-awareness. 

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

More or less

There are some basic needs that all humans have such as: food, water, a reasonable ambient temperature, and many more. This we know. Another thing we know is that for each of these human needs there is something like an optimal value.

Why? Because at the two extremes are life-threatening conditions of either deprivation or toxicity. This has nothing to do with following some sort of morally correct middle way. It’s built into our physical bodies. But let’s move from body to mind, and ask about more and less in the mental context.

Money of course is really interesting in this regard as some people place no limits on how much they wish to accumulate. What has this got to do with retirement? Well consider some other mental activities such as:

·      Binge-watching shows on Netflix;

·      Accumulating likes on Facebook;

·      Daily counting of emails received.

Now we get to a tricky area of evaluation: what is too little or too much?

This is an area over which you have control in retired life: where YOU want to set the balance of YOUR activities like those listed above.

There is no correct answer, there is only an answer that works for you.

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

A true experience of retirement....

 

I wrote a piece on my blogpost on 4th June 2019 called “An imaginary conversation that could really happen”, which attracted a charming email from a man with whom my post resonated. Here is his response. I have used his own words with some minor edits. The “I” refers to that man of course.

 THE BAD NEWS BEGINS

I too, had a successful corporate career with two large national companies. I also had 7 years running my own business including a pub, newsagency and a general store. All were successful businesses and sold at a profit, before going into the corporate world. I was GM of Sales in Queensland with a career of 22 years as well as Director or National Manager of another large print corporate for almost 10 years. 

The positions I held are not important, but suffice to say I looked after big teams and loved my work at both companies with lots of travel, wonderful comraderie, and priceless memories.

Both companies were in print media and we all know what happened there.

They never saw the internet coming. I did though, and asked for a redundancy at age 52. 

Looking back it was a risky and ill thought out move. I negotiated a very generous payout but I had no idea how much I would miss the discipline of work, the self esteem that comes with work, the sense of achievement, the comradeship. One day I was doing 80 hour weeks and the next zero.

I spiralled into depression  for about 6 months. It was very difficult for my wife and  kids. Without them I would never got through it. I sought help early, was medicated for several months due to low serotonin levels. But it took about a year to emerge from my walk in ‘the valley of darkness’ as I refer to it. 

 A SECOND CHANCE

After a year I decided to have another crack at the corporate world. I had not attended a job interview in 25 years. It was a hell of a thing to do to have the confidence to attend, and everything that goes with senior management corporate positions interviews, including several role plays whilst being videoed, psychometric testing and targeted selection interview techniques. It was robust to say the least but in retrospective what I needed to regain my confidence. I got the role. But almost 10 years later after taking the publication to new highs and my team being named the best led team in the business out of 10,000 employees. I thought we were doing everything right. 

Unfortunately the print media game began to downsize. Costs had to go and three thousand expensive staff were made redundant over several months. After receiving the good news re our teams performance,  two weeks later I was tapped to go.

This time I was much better prepared.

 A PLAN FOR THE LAST THIRD

At age 63 I toyed with the idea of having another crack but after all the commuting, the constant interstate travel, I decided to ‘retire’. I had no plans. It’s a mistake.

The first few months were very hard but my previous experience had taught me that busy(ness) was the key. I had to find away to have a reason to get up in the morning.

Exercise became the key. I rode my bike or kayaked every day. I lost 10 kgs fairly quickly. Amazing what exercise does to  set you up for the day.

At the same time my daughter and son had bought houses that needed a lot of work. I got involved. I am no tradie but for two years the work involved, consumed a lot of time.

I have always been an outdoors type. I joined a bush walking club and loved the  idea of working hard to get somewhere where not too many people have been and absorb what mother nature has to offer and its free. I have done over 200 hikes in 6 years. I am on the committee of the club and  very involved in all sorts of peripheral and club activity. As I write this I am off to a remote part of Australia for three weeks of hiking  with 11 other club members. I could go on. Suffice to say it fills another gap.

I have had a self managed super fund for 20 years. During my working life I left it in the hands of so called ‘financial Advisors’. When I retired I decided to take it on myself. From a very mediocre performance in the hands of the experts I have averaged a little over 10% net p.a. To augment that I joined the Australian Investors Association to increase my education, but more so to network with like-minded people. I am just about to attend my 7th national Conference. Another gap filled.

With all this I am as busy as I want to be.

In addition my son has started his own business and I have worked closely with him by way of mentoring, advice and support. My daughter is a working professional with two babies. My son has just had his first as well.  Another gap filled.

 I thought I might share my journey with you for no other reason than to highlight the importance that retirement planning is crucial, that the last third should become ‘my retirement career’ and plan it like any project when in the ‘paid’ workforce.

No doubt you are aware of all this, but many of your clients could relate to the early part of my story and it may give you some testimonial reinforcement. If nothing else it feels good to share.

I will be 70 next year and constantly looking over the horizon for the next challenge. Good luck with your endeavours. I imagine its very fulfilling.

 

 

Acronyms-how many is enough?

64 PLUS’ 4M process has as its second M “Measuring”. This is the moment of revelation that a person’s retirement diary can look quite empty when compared to a work diary.

For some retired people this is fine, but for others it is a source of anxiety. Why so?

Let’s call it DGS – Diary Guidance Syndrome. It’s quite common for full-time workers to use their diary as the locomotive that pulls their day along. Appointments, meetings, deadlines, travel etc. This can lead to a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder of constant diary checking in order to make sure that nothing gets missed.

OCDD, Obsessive Compulsive Diary Disorder. When an OCDD sufferer moves to retirement it may be a massive relief OR may lead to a loss of guidance. 

This can lead to BS or Bunnings Syndrome, where the retired person marks a day as dedicated to one and only one activity (an outing to Bunnings perhaps) and saves other activities to fill out another day. Self-limiting behaviour perhaps.

In summary, the diary can be a useful slave or a cruel master both at work and in retirement, but if it was your master when you worked what will your diary look like when you stop working?

Do you want any of: DGS, OCDD, BS or none of them? 

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

Creation and Achievement Deficit: CAD

The previous post discussed the concept of an identity bridge. You can construct this abstract bridge in order to connect your life of work to your life of post-work. This is a very sound idea, but hard to do on your own.

A retirement coach can assist you to construct a bridge that spans that gap. How does this relate to CAD?

When you worked you almost certainly “made things” whatever that was for you: physical objects, written reports, food and so on. Write your own list. Importantly, there was an emotional core to this, felt at a very deep level: after creating something you felt a sense of achievement. Fantastic.

However, in retirement – no longer having the discipline and routine of work - you may suffer from a deficit of Creation and Achievement: CAD. What to do?

Where did your sense of achievement at work come from? Here is a very short list of possibilities:

·      Helping others

·      Showing your intelligence

·      Demonstrating efficiency

Hence you should construct your personal list and then locate congruent activities and passions to engage with post-work. That will help to turn any CAD from deficit to surplus.

However, as we have written before, do not confuse busyness with achievement and meaning in retirement. They may coincide or, unfortunately, you may find yourself running around doing things yet failing to meet your deepest sense of meaning.

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

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.