Retirement – A Time of Doubt or Jubilation?
There are hundreds, maybe thousands of articles on the Internet about planning for retirement – save X percent of your savings toward your 401K, plan your healthcare expenses, review your will and trust funds, buy a rocking chair…well, okay I made up the rocking chair part.
All this advice is good, but I haven’t seen anything about how you might feel emotionally about retiring, particularly if you are still youthful and healthy, your coworkers are like family, and you love your job. So why would someone leave such an idyllic situation?
Employees have a number of reasons for wanting to retire, including stress, wanting to spend more time with children and grandchildren, eligibility, and future plans that may include a second career. However, retirement does not magically end stress. The act of retiring in itself is stressful.
As a member of the so-called baby boomers, I recently retired, and in the last few days and hours on the job, all sorts of doubts ran through my mind. Had I done the right thing? Did I really have my finances in order or did I miss something? Friday was my last day. Would I robotically get up early on Monday morning and be sitting at my desk smiling and offering a cheerful “Good morning” when my coworkers came in?
Then it hit me – for the first time in 25 years, I had no job! I felt a little streak of panic, but I had been no stranger to anxiety attacks after making the decision to retire in the first place, so I told myself to breathe. Once the oxygen reached my brain I again assessed my situation. A month before I retired I practiced retiring after having minor surgery on my leg where I had to take nearly a week off work. At the time I had no doubts that I could retire without regret, except for leaving the best coworkers in the world. I hadn’t planned on that.
But then reality has a way of segwaying into your life and the doubts began. The one unbelievable point that I had shared with office buddies was that I wouldn’t have to get up in the mornings to go to work, but that somebody somewhere was going to pay me anyway. That is a fairly good set up, is it not? So, now what’s the problem I asked myself?
A casual conversation with a coworker helped me find the answer. It is the word retirement. I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit! I won’t give you the dictionary definition, but we all know that it means to put something away. But what was I putting away –my job, my coffee cup, or was it my life? I plan to use the last two, so putting them away was not an option.
My coworker told me that in her native Puerto Rico the word for retirement was La jubilación, meaning jubilant. She said it was a time to celebrate and enjoy what you have earned. My, how a word can change one’s perspective. Jubilant – I liked that word. I realized retirement hadn’t been my goal; to be jubilant had been my goal all along.
I shared with the rest of my office family and my friends that I was not retiring, I was jubilating. Included now in my future plans may just be a trip to Washington where I will speak before the House, or maybe to just a few folks on the Metro, to petition that the word retirement be stricken forever from the English dictionary and replaced by the word jubilant.
But before I leave to carry through with my new political adventure, I offer this advice to those who plan to be jubilant in the new few years: Consider retirement for many months before you do it. Financial planning is a given, but project ahead – do you have plans? Visualize yourself a year from now. What will you be doing? Where will you be? Make a list of all the things you want to do, including travel plans. Take a few days off to actually pretend you are retired and take some notes on what you did and how you felt. Relax and take deep breaths when you feel anxious about your decision.
And lastly, don’t say you are retiring. With conviction and confidence, head held high, and maybe even standing on top of your desk, announce “I am jubilating!” Well, okay I may have gone too far with the standing on your desk part, but do the other two and enjoy this new phase of your life in total and complete jubilation.