Ready For Retirement


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Ready For Retirement

  1. 1. Ready for Retirement? By Chelse Benham ”As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world — that is the myth of the atomic age — as in being able to remake ourselves.” - Mahatma Gandhi Twice as many Americans were born in 1955 than in 1935 and those many millions of people are now entering, passing through, or have completed mid life and nearing retirement. The American Association of Retired Persons (open to anyone age 50) has more than 30 million members. Recently Dr. Miguel A Nevárez announced his stepping down from the Office of the President for The University of Texas-Pan American after 23 years of service. He has decided to join the millions of people who have also retired from their careers. For many, their careers provided them a social network, sense of identity, power and contribution to society. Although, Nevárez will not be president, he still anticipates being an active faculty member at the University. At a recent celebration in his honor, Nevárez shared his thoughts about this next phase of life. “First of all I don’t think I’m moving out, just moving on. For every exit there’s an entrance on to something new. I hope to continue to contribute to the University,” Nevárez said. It is that sense of contribution that may be at the crux of the “retirement blues,” because work has more than an economic purpose in people’s lives. Workplaces are social environments. They are places where professional goals are achieved, status is built and power is obtained. For many people, more time is spent at work with colleagues and friends than with family members. “Most people feel a sense of acceptance or fatalistic about their retirement here in the Valley. Due to this approach to retirement they’re not generally prepared financially, but they are very mentally strong because they know their limitations,” said Armando Dominguez, program coordinator for the Center on Aging and Health at UTPA. “They know what they are going into. They know that their families and their faith in God will be there for them. Many find camaraderie and friendship in senior centers.” Retirement is a stage of adult life development that requires us to meet the challenge of what Erik Erikson called “the crisis between generativity versus stagnation.” Erikson, a prominent leader in the field of psychoanalysis, laid much of the groundwork for our current knowledge and understanding of adult development. He identified eight stages in life. The seventh stage can be one of
  2. 2. creativity or stagnation and it occurs during the time in a person’s life when retirement is considered. Being creative and finding powerful means of giving back through volunteering and or taking up a project that makes you feel productive is a positive way to handle retirement. Pablo Picasso worked up to the day he died in his 90s, producing works of art. George Bernard Shaw was still writing plays in his 90s. George Burns was still entertaining and starring in films in his 90s. Georgia O'Keefe was still painting in her 90s. All these people are examples of using creativity to further enrich life as each faced their “golden years.” According to a Harvard study on adult development called “Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life,” conducted by Dr. George Vaillant, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, there are four circumstances under which retirement can be stressful and produce a negative response: • when it is unplanned and involuntary. • when the wage or salary is the only means of income. • when one's home life is unhappy and work has provided an escape. • when there is pre-existing bad health. According to Kaye Healey, a retirement counselor and author of “Changing Course: How do I retire?”, some things that contribute to a successful retirement are: a place to live where one feels comfortable and “at home”; good health, good diet and regular exercise; enough income; meaningful relationships; a good social network; a feeling of being at peace within oneself and, importantly, the ability to develop an absorbing and challenging project in retirement. Dr. Phil Rich, therapist and author of the “Healing Journey” series of books, writes, “One key to a successful retirement is for people to figure out what work has meant to them. Because, whatever other changes retirement brings, the central fact is that they will be giving up their work. Success in retirement often means finding satisfying and personally productive replacements for work so that life continues to have meaning and reward after the job has ended.” Rich outlines five phases of retirement that almost everyone goes through in his article “Learning to Retire: The Transition from Work to Retirement.” Recognizing and understanding these phases helps retirees put their feelings and experiences into words. These phases also provide “landmarks to help them judge where they are and what lies ahead.” Phase 1: Pre-Retirement. As people enter this phase, they face the realization that retirement is not just coming sometime in the future, but is imminent. During this phase, primary tasks involve preparing for retirement and gearing up for separation from work.
  3. 3. This is an important time, offering the opportunity to not only plan financially but also to prepare emotionally and spiritually for a major change. Phase 2: Honeymoon. Many enter this phase without considering the important long term needs of retired life, such as goals, relationships, personal meaning and a long term plan. This phase provides a time for retirees to not only enjoy themselves, but to also plan ahead for the routines and life that will follow. Here, it is important for retirees to pace themselves and plan for the long haul. Phase 3: Disenchantment. For some, the honeymoon is followed by a period of disenchantment, and sometimes depression. And the more unrealistic the pre-retirement dream, the more likely it is that life after the honeymoon will feel empty and anti-climactic. For those who best understand this important phase, it provides an opportunity to re-invent themselves and re-define their own futures. Phase 4: Reorientation. This phase sees the active development of ideas and a movement towards a more balanced life and diversified set of interests, relationships and routines. It offers a time to think about new avenues of involvement in every area of life, and is a time for action and movement towards the life retirees want to live. Phase 5: Stability. This stage most of all is "retirement." Until now, retirees have simply been gearing up for and moving towards this final phase, which doesn't really have an end. In this phase, retirees are not just thinking about and planning for their retirement, they're living it! At, Canada’s largest pension plan company, a few suggestions are offered to mentally and emotionally prepare for retirement. • Awareness: Maintain an alert, active outlook on life to increase your interest in others and theirs in you. As you age, you're more aware of the finite quality of time and life. Limits are understood, and friends and family often take on deeper meaning. • Flexibility: Keep your attitudes toward life, family and friends flexible, interested and open. Changes occur daily - be open to them. • Independence: To keep financially, mentally and emotionally strong, it's important to make clear and independent choices. • Expansion: Develop new goals, and keep involved in meaningful projects that will help you keep growing.
  4. 4. Pat Mestern, author and song writer, outlines some key ways to ensure a fulfilling retirement in her article “North of the Border – Preparing for Retirement” found at Web site. Her suggestions are listed here: • Know where you want to live, how you want to live, if and when you want to make a move and why. Never make hasty decisions about such an important issue. • If you own your home, make sure that all expensive electrical appliances i.e. stove, fridge, freezer, washer, dryer, computer are replaced before retirement. Have all major house repairs done. • Retire with no debt. Pay off all credit cards, your mortgage, your car and any other outstanding loans. Replacing your vehicle will be the biggest post-work expense. Have enough money in the bank to do this. You don't want to negotiate loans after retirement. Use credit cards or line-of-credit for major expenses such as a holiday, but only if you can pay the balance at the end of each month. Try to pay everything with cash. • Begin to track your expenses to give an accurate picture of spending habits. Lose the bad habits, expand on the good. • Restructure your lifestyle to fit your finances. Gear retirement activities to comfortable expenditure levels. Walking is far less expensive than membership in a gym. • You don't need to accumulate STUFF after retirement. You should be giving some away. Remember, looking is pleasurable; recreational shopping can lead to financial hardship. • Pursue a hobby, but only if it generates enough income to pay for supplies. Some hobbies are financial burdens. If this is the case, switch to one that is as creative yet demands a more reasonable financial outlay. • Scale festive occasions back to comfortable financial levels. Don't give gifts if you can't afford to buy them. • When you are retired, don't do without because you want to leave a financial legacy. Your children should be the first to encourage enjoyment of life in your retirement years. • If possible, ease into retirement over several years. Too quick a change is difficult for some to handle, mentally and physically. • Don't approach retirement as you did work. You don't have to follow a 9 to 5 routine. You're free from the clock. Slow down. Relax. Take time to read, to reflect, and to enjoy life without hassle. • Begin now to put emphasis on the simpler things in life. Not only are they worth your full attention, they are usually less expensive to pursue. • Retirement is inevitable. Look forward to the day with all your strategies firmly in place. When people accomplish success in retirement, they realize the coming together of their life's achievements and failures. Retirement becomes a wonderful period in which the windfall of free time is converted to self-
  5. 5. fulfillment. With a healthy approach and shrewd preparation, it can become a time of reflection, rest and rejoicing. “Happiness resides not in possessions and not in gold, the feeling of happiness dwells in the soul.” - Democritus, (460-370 BC) Greek mathematician and scientist