Two days from now is the annual UN International Day of Older Persons and one thing remains unchanged. Despite the inevitability of it, few of us bother to plan for the day we retire.
Until recently, I would include myself in that unfortunate lot.
Studies show many of us who fail to plan are really planning to fail! On average, retired men are 40% more likely to feel depressed than employed men. And with more men becoming lonelier as they age (as mentioned in an earlier blog post of mine)…
To retire well is more than merely “saving for a rainy day”
Now, a casual search online reveals that an inordinate amount of research and advice on retirement planning centers almost exclusively on finances.
This narrow-minded world we live in seems to know how to deal with something only if they can tie a dollar sign to it.
Do we still need a better example of adult naiveté?!
Surely, if there’s anything we’ve learnt from this still-ongoing global Covid pandemic, is that life (especially retirement) is more than just about “saving for a rainy day.”
Now I’m not saying having a healthy bank account is unnecessary. However, the heightened levels of stress and depression reported globally since Covid, should serve as a warning to those who still think MONEY alone makes the world go round! The other ‘M’ — MENTAL — is of far greater worth and importance, yet often gets the littlest of attention.
As a matter of fact, financial planning (FP) is probably the easiest part of retiring. Especially since you can always do what the commercial world does so well — outsource and automate. Just hand over FP to a trained, certified and trusted financial planner with a sophisticated (and hopefully secure) platform to manage your portfolio. Which is what I did with my FP, since I can barely add two and two together!
And once you’ve outsourced the FP, then VOILA! You’re free to plan for what I contend are the far more important aspects to planning your retirement!
It’s about those “ice cream” moments
So I like to use it here as my analogy for all things sweet and wonderful I hope to do and experience when I retire.
I’m sure I’m not alone. Doubtless many both love ice cream and look forward to retire.
But the funny thing is, many more don’t know how to spend their time when they do retire! I still remember this guy (in a church cell group) who was retiring from a lifetime of non-stop work, but shared that he dreaded retirement. He confessed he didn’t know what to do with all that extra time!
Another guy my friend knew told him that after retiring seven years, he still misses being received, escorted, chauffeured, and having all his logistical needs met at every city airport he flew into, on his numerous business trips as a senior executive of a global corporation.
Instead of savouring what I call the “ice cream” moments of a retired life — sightseeing (travel curbs not withstanding), ‘hobby-ing’, taking it easy, spending more time with family — people like these guys (assuming they’re even thinking about it!) get all hot and bothered as the time to retire draws near.
Or worse, retirement’s already here and guess what? Their first reaction is to go into a dizzy state. Like they’d been dropped unceremoniously from a high perch — bounded, gagged and blindfolded — into the center of a maze! Like the second guy mentioned above, they yearn to return to the past, and are unappreciative of what they now have.
Why is that?
They didn’t think retirement will happen to them, until it did!
So here’s one truth I think we need to take seriously, if we wish to retire well and have those ice cream moments.
Plan now or risk retirement “culture shock”
It’s unfortunate but true: Retirement “culture shock” will hit us hard if we never plan early for it.
And I don’t mean you plan for it like a day/week/month before it happens. That’s too late!
The planning actually needs to start several years in advance.
We know in general most would make sure to set aside enough retirement fund for daily living expenses and medical emergencies. However, the more important planning has to center around what you will actually do during the daily minutiae of your waking hours.
Hopefully, it’ll be stuff that will keep you meaningfully engaged well into your twilight years.
For therein lies what I term the retirement “culture shock”. Almost to the last person, every retiree’s first week or even month is spent in stunned silence at how time suddenly “expanded”, as though there were now 48 instead of 24 hours in a day!
So planning early and well with stuff to do is vital to cushion this shock to the system.
My two best retirement buddies
For me, now a “semi-retiree”, books and movies have always been my two best buds.
And thanks to them, I already have a mountain of things to read, watch, talk and write about for several lifetimes, making them my excellent “retirement plans.”
Now if you agree it’s imperative in the working world to have short and long term goals and business/organisational targets, then you must acknowledge that it’s even more critical to have these in the years after work.
In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s a “life-and-death” matter; for an idle mind (and body) is the devil’s workshop!
Of course, the plans you set for retirement need not be water-tight. And you certainly don’t need to have unreachable KPIs anymore, like you did while climbing the corporate ladder.
But you do need a plan, one with both short and long term goals and targets.
In other words…
…a plan “with legs”!
For me, that would be (among other things) posting a blog thrice a week without exception. And always at the same time-slots to ensure consistency and discipline on my part, and predictability and certainty on the part of readers.
These posts serve as my short-term achievable targets, or “tentpoles” if you will. They anchor my “retirement tent” so it won’t flap every which way in fickle winds. And they keep me grounded and purpose-driven on an on-going basis.
Why, just the background research and reflection to produce regular posts is enough to tire me out at the end of every day!
As for the long-term, my goal is to complete a good final draft of my first book-length memoir, which will take a few years for sure (going by my current snail’s pace!). Thereafter, whether or not I publish it will be another bridge I’ll cross when I get there.
But first, to get there I’ll have to put in the time now. So that’s yet another plan I have that will occupy my waking hours for a long time to come.
The point is, we must all plan now to do something that “has legs” later, meaning stuff that’s regular and engaging enough to keep us going indefinitely.
That way, we won’t panic later or (worse) atrophy, when we’re old!
So how about you?
What’s your retirement plan “with legs”?