We tend to think of life in three phases: childhood years, working years, and retirement years. This reflects the lifecycle model of a time when jobs were secure and lifespans were short. This has all changed, and we should update our perspective.
In the past, we’ve noted that some work (either for money or for charity) helps a person negotiate the change from worker-to-non-worker identity, which seems to be particularly difficult to men.
Today, with my own thoughts sprinkled in, let’s look at the thinking of Bill McManus of Applied Insights, who finds our perspective on retirement too simplistic, and needs to be updated. People often see more changes or phases during their retirement years than they experience during their working years.
The first chapter is “The Honeymoon Phase”, when you don’t have to get up early, get dressed, commute, and smile at the boss. This is the most joyous chapter. Stay close to your financial advisor. Just know: this chapter doesn’t last.
The second chapter is “The Big Decision Phase”. This is a period of confusion. Was retirement a mistake? What value do I have? Am I needed? Will my money last? How do I cut back on my expenses? Get even closer to your financial advisor. Just know: this chapter doesn’t last either.
The third chapter is “The Navigating Longevity Phase”. This is a period increasing infirmity, slowing pace, and more frequent visits to the doctors. The sun is setting, and you feel it everyday. Some people think you are cranky. Your financial advisor should be a family friend by now. Just know: this chapter doesn’t last forever, sadly.
The fourth chapter “The Solo Journey Phase”. About half of us will not experience this, as we will die, leaving a spouse alone. Some people thrive during this phase but most don’t. Unscientific as it may be, but it seems to me that those who find the most enjoyment in the little things in life thrive the best. Watching birds nest. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child. Watching seasons change. Your daily routine can also be satisfying at the stage. Finding a support group, even a church group, is more important than you now realize. You already know: this chapter will not last forever, thankfully!
Now, get a piece of paper and write down which chapter worries you the most and why. Fold it and put that piece of paper in a drawer you use frequently. Do yourself a favor and write it now!