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Stop Chasing The Illusion Of Retirement

Do you know that “Better You” who you are always chasing? The one who has a consistent exercise schedule, is eating healthy, has an outgoing personality and is full of energy. That person who can strike a balance between spending quality time with family and friends while also making time for themselves and their needs. The unique being who is persistent and able to finish up important projects and have a positive impact on others.

It’s the person you have been chasing for years and now that retirement is here or just on the horizon, you finally have a chance to make it happen. But there is only one problem, you won’t find or become that person in retirement. You’ve been brainwashed to believe that retirement will give you the ingredients to get there, but you’re chasing an illusion.

I’m not out to make retirement sound bad or terrible or suggest that you should die at your desk. Fact is retirement is one of the most highly anticipated phases of life but it’s also one of the least understood.  I have committed the last 12 years to studying every facet of it and have not only written a number of books but also created the primary training program for professionals to help others make a better transition into this encore phase of life.

In a nutshell, I call this type of work vaccinating people on the reality of retirement. Just like the immunizations we give our children, there is a need to introduce the negative sides of life after work into a person’s retirement plan. This way, they have greater awareness of all the things that can happen after work-life (not just the good ones) as well as the time to allow their bodies and minds to build up defenses against them.

Up to this point, people have been trained to believe that retirement is this happy place where things magically unfold. Where they can finally become the person that they have been chasing. But just removing work from your life won’t do that. People have to understand that retirement doesn’t eliminate work, it reorients it. You still have to work in other ways including putting an effort into your new identity, relationships, social network and physical health.

It’s interesting because of one my favorite statistics says something along the lines that 65% of criminals who escape from prison are caught within the first 24 hours. A full 85% of them are caught within a week. The reason for this is simple. They spend all their time and energy focusing on getting out and so once they are outside the wall, they don’t know what to do. It’s the same with traditional retirement planning and that is why it has to change.

Same with people. The perfect person you keep chasing won’t magically show up in retirement. Not needing to go to work or attend boring meetings won’t make you happier, more energetic, or fulfilled, which means you’ll either fall into similar negative thoughts and patterns or develop new ones.

But Robert, “What about the latest survey or poll that says 80% or 90% of people are happy in retirement?” Well, you mean 90% of respondents, not the retired population. Think about that for a moment, if people were unhappy in retirement could they truly say so?

The answer is no because of the social stigmas we attach to it. We assume that work is bad and leisure is good and so when people have enough money to no longer work and all the time in the world to do what they like, we as a society say, you should be happy. But it’s not always the case. People can miss their routine, friends at work, deadlines, being part of a team or having a specific title.

Unfortunately, you can’t tell anyone that for fear of being considered odd or out of place in terms of how others perceive the attainment of retirement. As a result, people suffer in silence. They don’t know who to turn to and often waste the first and some of the most valuable years of retirement trying to figure it out.

That’s a serious problem and the reason why rates of alcoholism, addiction, depression, and suicide continues to grow in older adults. Unfortunately, no one does a survey on who is drinking more in retirement, addicted to pain pills, feeling isolated, or thinking about harming or killing themselves. And rightfully so, I don’t think many people would admit to it.

But it is very common and why we have to proclaim that retirement isn’t this perfect little place where you will finally become that person, that illusion that you have been chasing. The opportunity here is to let people know that just as they have a written plan for their finances as they approach retirement, so to must be the case for the non-financial aspects.

They need a written plan that addresses the mental, social, physical, and spiritual aspect of retirement. I’m talking about concrete plans and ideas to replace their work identity, fill their time, stay relevant and connected, as well as mentally and physically active.

Please understand, I get no enjoyment from these ideas or people’s misery, however, I haven’t seen a worthwhile transformation into retirement that didn’t have some hard parts to it. As I often say, a successful retirement isn’t one without problems but rather one in which you learn to overcome them. 

The goal here is to make you better prepared for a successful transition from work life to home life. Which means taking this advice to heart and committing the time and energy to developing a written plan for what your every day life will look like in retirement. It’s time to stop chasing this illusion of a better you and life in retirement and start to take steps to create it right now. 

It starts by being open to new thoughts and ideas about retirement and understanding that running out of money pales in comparison to running out of family, friends, health, and time. 

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