Briefcase Study: From One Retiree To Another
Your retirement will likely look very different from that of just about anyone else’s. After all, you’re you and they’re them, right? And while I suppose that’s categorically true, there are quite a few similarities that we get to witness when talking with all of the folks we serve who’ve crossed that line into retirement from paid work. So, what can we glean from these discussions we’re lucky enough to have?
Well, a recent discussion with a couple helped to shine a light on some of the interesting aspects of retirement that may seem trivial to some, but not to them and probably not to you. In fact, these are the elements of retirement that we probably should discuss more often than just the money stuff. Because once the money is invested and allocated in the right way, there’s the rest of your life to figure out.
This couple was a bit unique in that they retired five years apart from one another, and he literally retired less than a week ago; this lead to some insightful banter between the two that’s worth sharing.
Specifically, these were the questions I was wanting to – and did – ask the new retiree. I share these because I think they may prove helpful to anyone that’s aspiring to retire or retired somewhat recently, which may be you!
Do you still wake to an alarm clock?
How do you spend your days now, and do you think that will change over time?
What do you miss most about your work life?
What are you most looking forward to in retirement?
Have there been any big surprises now that you walked away from your career and co-worker community?
What are you most concerned about?
If you knew then what you know now, would you do anything differently?
As these things go, the answers they both gave to those questions aren’t the most important element here. The key is to ask yourself the questions and to see what answers come to mind. For like I said, your retirement has to look different from theirs because you’re you. The fact that this couple retired five years apart meant that they were considering their answers much differently from one another. After all, she’s had five years to ponder these things while he’s had five days. Sure, they have a life together and are making big and exciting plans as a couple, but they seemed to be arriving at shared conclusions at very different points along their discovery journey.
For example, he still wakes up early and immediately checks his email … his work email. Even though he doesn’t have any work emails to process, he still checks them, and why wouldn’t he after engaging in the work for 40 years? Of course, she does no such thing and finds it cute that he does. He’s making decisions about his pension and 401(k) while she made her decisions years ago. He’s still carrying around that layer of work anxiety while she shed that a long time ago. So as a couple, she’s patiently waiting for him to get where she is, it’s just going to take a while.
So, when you consider your retirement, whether it’s well underway or still on the horizon, ask yourself what you intend for it to look like.
Consider asking your spouse what they intend theirs to look like, and maybe what they hope yours will look like. It’s better to be on the same page with this than running in opposite directions.
I suppose retirements are like snowflakes – all a bit different. The difference is though, the snowflake doesn’t choose its shape or path, it just does snowflake things because that’s what snowflakes do. You, on the other hand, have an immense array of choices available to you. Being able to choose is what freedom is all about, but what do they say, ‘freedom isn’t free’? In this case, the freedom you’ve earned comes with a price of self-reflection and soul-searching. It’s an awesome opportunity and an awesome responsibility. Choose wisely and be patient with one another and find comfort in the fact that we’re all very different and yet we’re all somewhat the same.