So far, I’ve written a fair amount about the perks and freedoms of retirement. Without a doubt, the list of retirement pros is long. However, I would be neglectful not to portray the flip side. As the famous saying goes: “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With (great) freedom comes (great) responsibility.”(Source) I initially began the following as a simple list of bullet points that could be included in a retiree’s ‘job description.’ Once I started writing, I began to realize the vastness of this topic. My sincere apologies to anyone reading in a hurry!
Do Your Homework – After my husband and I made the financial decision to leave our jobs, I began to research the emotional side of retirement. I found the quickest and most interesting way to do this was to follow retirement bloggers. Instantly, I could read personal accounts of the daily highs and lows of retirement, and learn from others who had pioneered ahead of me. I believe that this single decision helped best prepare me mentally for my life after leaving the workforce…often in 800 words or less! Some great blogs to check out are listed on the sidebar of this post. In addition, I have quoted from a few of these retirement blogs in this article.
Find/Maintain Purpose – When high expectations are not met, boredom and frustration can set in. As author/blogger, Tom Sightings has recently posted, ““We need activities that stimulate our imagination, connect us to other people, and help us develop a commitment to something more than our own self-interest.” Not finding purpose is frequently cited as a chief concern among those struggling with retirement.
Expect the Unexpected – According to the Ontario Securities Commission Report (2014), more than 50% of Canadians, aged 50 or older, said something outside their control negatively affected their retirements. The unexpected can come in the form of health issues for yourself or a family member. It can also come from the sudden decline/loss of an investment or property. Backup plans and safety nets are essential, especially when you do not have a steady employment income.
Watch Expenses – Following the above, balancing and prioritizing finances are critical skills, especially in retirement. Budgeting for your expenses and cutting back on extravagant or unnecessary expenditures (i.e. living below your means) helps provide extra security in retirement and a less stressful post-career life. A Dave Ramsey quote (recently cited on Mr. Fire Station’s early retirement blog) is very appropriate here: “A budget is telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.”
Become a Jack (or Jill) of All Trades – In the workplace, it is often easy to access the skills of other people, leaving you to focus on what you do best. Prior to retiring, my husband and I seldom worried about computer troubles, or editing, or…well, many things! Complicating this matter further, living overseas gave us quite affordable access to housekeeping, maintenance workers, spa services, movers, etc., etc. The day that we retired, these all became ‘luxuries of the past.’ We have each become much more versatile in our skill sets. We now know more about our computers than we ever thought possible. We confidently tend to household chores and maintenance tasks, We eat out less often. Even home manicures/pedicures/hair coloring are now part of my regular routine (shriek here)! Going along with the above bullet-point, the more that you can do for yourself in retirement, the broader your financial safety net will be.
Use it or Lose it – It is common understanding that a decline in cognitive and physical performance takes place in our senior years. Although many factors can contribute to this, the ‘use it or lose it’ theory is frequently cited. Thus, daily activity, self-care and not letting ourselves fall into sedimentary routines is essential as we age. The great news from researchers is that although it may take more effort to learn new information during our retirement, our foundation of knowledge and experience can far outweigh that of youth. (Source) This same body of research indicates that those who keep themselves informed and up-to-date in their post-work life tend to have a much higher retirement contentment rate.
Enter with your own self-esteem and self-worth fully intact –It is said that in a wolf pack, wolves instinctively admire the role/position that other wolves have in the pack at that moment. (Source) During our career lives, it is often easy for people to connect with us, or instantly feel respect for us, simply based on our job titles. Replacing that career title with the word “retiree” usually does not pull the same punch. (Janis at RetirementallyChallenged covers this topic nicely!) It is essential to come into retirement with a healthy self-concept and our own intrinsic motivation. I can’t help but link a BlitzZoom video here—It’s appropriate…and makes me laugh every single time that I watch it!
Have a Caregiving Plan (both for giving and receiving care) –Last year, the cost impact of caregiving on American female caregivers, in terms of lost wages and Social Security benefits, was $324,044. [Source) Caring for an ailing parent, spouse or simply for grandchildren is a reality for many, especially retirees. Due to the demands of this multi-faceted role, it is important that caregivers also take care of themselves and get the support that they need. Essential resources for caregivers include: respite, up-to-date information, training, home modifications and support groups/family counseling. Blogger Kathy Merlo has recently posted on this topic, offering practical self-maintenance strategies for caregivers.
Nurture Relationships – I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Having strong, positive relationships has been solidly linked with longer life.(Source) Having friends to turn to decreases social isolation, provides emotional and physical support, helps us to manage stress and, according to some research, improves our immune systems. (Source) For married retirees, the importance of healthy communication, flexibility and give-and-take cannot be understated.
Give back – Retirement is a great time to reflect on the joys and opportunities that we have had in our lives. It is also a great time to give back to others. There are endless ways in which to do this. Local volunteer organizations, like Volunteer Canada, connect volunteers with others who need their skills/support. Still hesitant? Helping others increases self-esteem and offers multiple health benefits. Volunteering also provides personal empowerment and stimulates the release of endorphins, which can improve nervous and immune system functioning. (Source) Linda, at Thoughts From a Bag Lady In Waiting, wrote a very eloquent reflection on her experiences volunteering at the Oinofyta Refugee Camp in Greece. Your giving back contribution does not have to involve a major commitment…every little bit counts!
The above only begins to scratch the surface of the ‘Retirees’ Job Description’. What responsibilities would you like to add? I would love to hear from you!