Adjusting to Retirement—One Change at a Time (Part 1)

September 27, 2018

Adjusting to Retirement—One Change at a Time (Part 1)

With fall finally upon us—albeit with a soggy start—one of the things you’ll start seeing mentioned all over the place is: change.

Fall, after all, is the season for everything to flip-flop in the opposite direction. Formerly verdant green leaves shift to darkened reds and browns, coats and scarves are pulled from cluttered bins, and pumpkin spice replaces the smell of sizzling BBQs. Whether you embrace cooler weather and pumpkins is personal preference, but autumn brings a period of drastic transition every year.

Ironically, I’ve made a big change in my life that is finally taking shape right as fall began. Lee Ann and I have decided that it’s finally time for us to move closer into town. We’ve had our roots entangled in a modest city about 20 miles outside of Louisville for years now. Over time, it’s become a real challenge to work near the heart of Louisville and commute that far of a distance. We’ve talked about it for years but decided to pull the trigger and start the process of closing the distance between home and work.

I’ve been around the block before when it comes to moving—as many would say, this isn’t my first rodeo (or more specifically, my first moving van.) My roots, however, ran deeper than I initially thought. I found that with each taped box added to the pile, my anxiety gradually crept upwards. It’s not the work ahead of us that’s worrying me—it’s just the fact that in a few months, I’ll be walking out my front door for the last time…in fact, it won’t even be my front door at that point. The more I thought about it, the less I wanted to move; the less I wanted to move, the more I realized that the long commute just isn’t working anymore. Waiting around all these years for the so-called “right time” hasn’t worked very well so far.

It made me realize that retirement can be just as scary for our clients.

In a lot of my meetings, I talk about retirement as this great thing rapidly approaching—no more work! Permanent vacation! Goodbye 5pm rush hour! Sounds all good, right? To some, maybe it is…but to others, I’ve realized it doesn’t sound like the good time they’ve been waiting all these years to get to. I’ve never felt more clearly that for a lot of people, the idea of not working is something that brings up a huge amount of fear.

Think about it: you’ve worked your whole life. Since probably your early 20s, you’ve woken up, got dressed, grabbed coffee, and rushed off to spend 8 or 9 hours at the office. Ever come back from vacation and feel like your routine feels a bit off until you start going back to work? Retirement is like that—you’re taking time off from work, but permanently, so you lose the patterns you’ve had for decades. You wake up and…now what? No more work to go to—what can you fill that usual pattern with? It can be tough to suddenly have your routine not altered, but outright gone. Far tougher than I ever thought about it being.

When I meet with clients now, I’ve been trying to help them overcome this worry with a new idea that I’ve been using myself to overcome moving anxiety. Instead of thinking of retirement as “no more work”, think of it as making work optional. You’re not banned from working. You’re choosing if you want to work. Ever thought about a career switch? Going part-time at your current job? Pursuing a degree to get into a different field in your golden years? Great—go for it. If you get to a point where staying at home and relaxing is the order of the day, so be it. But, if you’d rather keep busy somehow, then you have the option to pursue that as well.

Retirement is a lot like fall—it’s all about change.

But the changes of fall are never permanent. Green will soon pop up on scraggly tree limbs, we’ll all be complaining about the endless heat waves, and BBQ’ed aromas will again reign supreme. Retirement is the same scenario. You can take a break, or switch jobs, or go part-time, or maybe quit altogether at first—but at the end of the day, the point is you can make whatever change you want to.