Lorraine was out of sorts. She had been happily retired and travelling for a few years. But now something was missing that she couldn't put her finger on. Travelling was starting to feel . . . boring.
Does the thought of retirement scare you? Are you worried that you'll lose that spark that keeps you at the top of your game at work? Too often, retirement plans focus on the money we'll need for our desired lifestyle and how to make it last. Money is important, but not the most important benefit that we get from work. Knowing these benefits of work will help you decide when retirement is right for you. And if, like Lorraine, you've lost your retirement mojo, knowing what is missing will help you get it back again.
The Myth: Retirement Means Escape from Work
You are not alone if you think that retirement is about only rest and relaxation. We boomers have been fed a retirement myth: work hard, save lots of cash, and then retire to a life of travel, leisure, and grandkids. This is what you’ve been working so hard for, right? Now it’s time to enjoy it!
Not so fast, Sherlock! For most of us, choosing a road of all play and no work means taking the freeway to unhappiness. The first few months away from work may feel like retirement bliss. Then one Monday morning we realize that we have no place to be and no one who needs us to be there. We feel adrift, uneasy, without purpose. We’re anxious about spending our money and bored to tears.
This is our wake-up call.
Retiring Can Be Dangerous to Your Health
Ignoring the wake-up call is dangerous. It can lead to weariness, aimlessness, and a slow wearing away, a sense that we are not entirely ourselves. We are missing one or more of the 5 Essential Benefits of Work. These are so ingrained in our psyche that they have become needs: we must have them to feel whole.
Lets go through these benefits of work in detail.
Benefit 1: Money
Money and what it buys us is the most obvious benefit we get from working. You may well need to work part-time after you retire. In addition to money, working part-time gives you the four benefits of work listed below. These benefits are so compelling that many people work in retirement from choice rather than from need. If so, you’ll be joining a big club! Workers over 65 are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Working in retirement is an opportunity to rethink what you want to do in exchange for your time. You are filling an income gap, not looking for a full-time job. That means you can get creative with what you would like to do and the hours you want to keep. You can decide to work for yourself or for someone else. You can continue in your current field or try something completely new. You can combine your need for money with your passion for making a difference. AARP’s website is a great place to get inspired about how you can work different after 50.
Benefit 2: Time Management
Our work life gives us a structure; it manages our time. We know where to go and what to do Monday - Friday. It keeps us orderly and in sync with our larger community. We must develop a new relationship with time in retirement. Our days are both fleeting and flexible. With all that flexibility it is all to easy to lose track of the days and just drift along.
In retirement, your calendar is essential. Your calendar is the visual representation of your daily life. What routines will you adhere to in retirement? When will you go grocery shopping? When will you exercise? What goals will you set? What regular activities will you engage in to structure your day, week, month, year? It takes discipline, but committing to a daily schedule means that you take your retirement life seriously. Because your retirement life IS your job.
Benefit 3: Being of Use
Our work life tells us that we have value. Someone is willing to pay us for our service. We contribute to a larger cause by serving others through our organization. When we retire we are called to go deeper into ourselves, to discover what we really want and who we are beyond our job identity. We must define our own utility and contribution to our family and community.
How will you make a difference after your job ends? What passions will you serve? How will you use your gifts, experience, and professional skills? How will you measure the value you contribute to the world? Start by getting clarity about what really matters to you.
Benefit 4: Status
Our work gives us our place in the world. We know how we fit in. Status is the combined sense of personal worth and identity we get from knowing who and what we are. When we retire, our status becomes more complex. We don't have a job title. We don't have a line of work. The focus turns from “what we do” to “who we are.” How will you answer the casual question, “What do you do?” How necessary is a title or role for you? What role(s) will you play in your family and community after your full-time career ends?
Benefit 5: Connection
Work gives us a built-in community of people that we see every day, say good-morning to, and each lunch with. After a long career, we have become skilled communicators, forming complex work relationships and alliances. When we leave our career, that built-in social network largely disappears. Retirement is an opportunity to deepen relationships with old friends and colleagues, connect with new social groups and make new friends who we enjoy and will help us grow.
These 5 Essential Benefits of Work are Basic Human Needs
Retirement is your chance to start anew and let go of what no longer serves you. It’s your opportunity to develop a new relationship with time and money. It’s your time to use your gifts to serve the people and causes you care about. It’s a chance to create roles that express the true you. In doing so you will naturally connect with people who appreciate and support you.
Take 10 minutes now to write down one desire in each of these 5 areas: Money, Time Management, Utility, Status, and Connection.
You do have a valuable job in retirement, whether or not it is paid. Figuring that job out is essential for living your joyful New Game of Life!
Do you want help with making these dreams come true? Schedule a complimentary coaching consultation here.