Stan's World - There's More to Retirement Than "Not Working"Submitted by S. F. Ehrlich Associates, Inc. on April 2nd, 2018
March 31, 2018
I recognized the voice long before I saw the face. It was a voice I heard almost every weekday morning for ten years. It was a voice I vividly recalled from our early morning discussions when I walked into the post office to retrieve the mail.
I quickly turned to greet an old friend. “Bob” had retired, so his days of coming to the Westfield Post Office had come to an end. His retirement had changed my morning dynamic, as our daily, brief discussion on sports, politics, and all else was something I anticipated and enjoyed.
About two years ago, Bob told me of his interest to retire, so a number of our discussions had focused on that topic. My opinions on retirement are very strong, so talking to Bob as if he were a client was normal for me.
Thus, I was saddened when the first words out of Bob’s mouth were: “Stan, you were right. You were right. I wake up every day with no purpose and nothing to do. I look to God for guidance every morning, but he has yet to show me the way.”
It had been almost a year and a half since I last saw Bob, so I tried to turn the conversation towards his family. But he quickly returned to the problem that gnaws at him every morning: What am I supposed to do with myself today?
If you’re near or in retirement, you may have heard me give you the ‘talk’, or been asked by me about your post-employment plans. It’s very normal for John and me to hear the same refrain in response to the question: “What are you going to do when you retire?” (The typical answer: “I’m not going to work.”)
Knowing what you’re not going to do is not the same as knowing what you’re going to do. While some retirees have their post-work life mapped out and don’t need any help from us, there are far more who assume (sometimes wrongly) that they’ll figure it as they go along. You might, but what if you don’t?
BusinessWeek1 published an article titled: “Me, Retire?” In it, they note that “…a retirement that occurs just once and continues for the rest of one’s life is becoming the exception.” Further, “Some 40 percent of Americans age 65 and older who are currently employed were retired at some time in the past…”
“(M)ore affluent retirees are rejoining the labor force because they enjoy the challenge and camaraderie of work,” disproving the notion that retirees who rejoin the workforce do so for financial reasons. In fact, the number of those age 65 and older who hold full-time positions has risen from 12% in 2000 to 20% today.
As for Bob, I had a few random thoughts, but seeking purpose in one’s daily life requires far more than can be expressed during a five-minute conversation. I didn’t suggest that he find full-time employment because retirees can sometimes hit glass ceilings (due to their age), thus leading to even more frustration.
John and I can help to frame the conversation, but as Bob found out (the hard way), trying to figure out what to do next can be a very complicated question to answer. Just because someone decides he doesn’t have to work, doesn’t always make not working the right answer.
1 Hymowitz, Carol. “Me, Retire?” BusinessWeek, 2 Oct. 2017.