Three Pitfalls to Avoid When Retiring
by Michael J. Orr
You have worked hard and have had a long career. But for the last several years, you have had one eye on your calendar and one eye on your 401K balance. Now the big day has arrived, and you have said your goodbyes around the office. Time to enjoy the easy life, right?
Perhaps, but here are three potential pitfalls that many haven’t considered:
1. Home, at last.
As the former breadwinner, we tend to go one of two directions at home when we retire: we either jump in and want to control everything, or we “deserve a break” and expect to be waited on while doing nothing. You need to find a balance. No doubt your spouse is glad to have you home. However, no matter how involved you may feel that you were in household affairs before your retirement; the fact is that the house ran just fine while you worked all day and your partner took care of most everything at home. Now, as you re-enter the household, you will realize that your partner created a routine at home that allowed him or her to keep up with the house and maybe live a life outside it as well. By definition, you have disrupted that routine by retiring. The adjustment period for both of you may not always be easy. Inevitably, your partner will not go about things the same way that you would, yet it has worked for him or her for the last 20, 30, even 40 years. Coming in and trying to control or “fix” the routine likely won’t go over well. We have to learn strike a balance: to walk the line between trying to do your part and allowing your spouse to do it their way. It takes time, patience, and communication.
2. Idle time tends to exacerbate our worst traits.
A number of recent studies have shown that as many as 20 percent of men who drank only sparingly or socially during their careers, descend into alcoholism after retirement. For those with addictive or aggressive personalities, the idleness of downtime is often filled with hobbies that allow them to drink regularly (camping, fishing, golf, and the like). The “19th hole” can become just a stopover on the road to excess. Be self-aware and honest with yourself. If you walk into any early morning Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and you will find these stories in abundance. You don’t want to become part of the 20 percent. Know your Achilles heel and weaknesses and stay clear. Fill your time with meaningful tasks or hobbies. Volunteering is an excellent way to start and there are many local organizations that could use your time, patience and wisdom.
3. Slowing down is hard
While keeping busy and active are great for your body, there is some psychological benefit to learning to be okay with quiet and a slower pace. If you have lived a fast-paced life, this lesson is a difficult one. Though many of us resist it, myself included, the benefits of meditation are indisputable. Teaching yourself how to quiet an overactive mind and find peace and serenity within either quiet or chaos will aid in finding that place of contentment that eludes so many of us. Try it. You might hate it at first, but if you give it a fair effort for two weeks it will become a tool that you can use for the rest of your life.
All of us have done the math for all the various scenarios, but our eventual lifespan is a guess, so I left the “live within your means” piece out of this discussion. Enjoy your retirement. Take a deep breath and relax, you deserve it. But be aware and honest with yourself about the transition and its impact on your household and your mindset so that you can make the transition to retirement as bump-free as possible.
Artwork credits: Robert Carter (Canada) “Retirement” deviantart.com, and Cricketumpire (UK) “As the Old Year Retires” deviantart.com