Retirement a ‘full-time job’? What’s that about?

Senior man looking out the window deep in thought

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I was browsing the book Retirement Maze when I came across this comment: ‘Retirement is a full-time job’. That made me pause. Don’t we retire to get away from work, the job? Is it to go to another?

Here’s the context of the statement: ‘If you were to ask our opinion about retirement, the answer might surprise you: “Be careful what you ask for.”’ ‘Our opinion’ comes from the authors, Rob Pascale, Luis H Primavera, and Rip Roach.

Why be careful? ‘Retirement is a full-time job: it demands constant attention and a great deal of effort to do it well. If you’re not up to the challenge, stay at work.’

They point out several challenges in retirement that are not often thought about, but worth considering. This is their list:

Retirement is a life stage characterised by:

  • The loss of identity
  • The loss of a sense of purpose and, above all
  • The loss of structure in the day

Retirement brings with it the need to adopt:

  • New roles
  • Alternative ways of thinking
  • New behavioural and attitudinal patterns

‘Retirement is very much about building a new life,’ they say, ‘mostly from the ground up and usually without much help. That’s what makes it such a challenge.’

The advantage of having a plan

They’re right, if you were to start your retirement as if you had an empty page and your plan is to start to fill it in when you retire, that’s a huge challenge. However, if you have plans and know what your priorities are, at least you have some kinds of outlines on your page.

It’s true that there are losses when you retire, but if you have planned your retirement, the gains will soon outweigh the losses. Planning brings with it purpose and structure.

I admit I struggled with my identity—who I was—when I retired. Men tend to face this more than women. However, my sense of identity returned after a time.

The adoption of new roles, ways of thinking, and behaviours can be a challenge in a negative way—what am I going to do? Or it could be a challenge in the sense of a new adventure. Go for the adventure.

There’s truth in the issues that Retirement Maze points out. But I’m not sure too many would see retirement as a full-time job. What do you think?

Bruce Manners is the author of Retirement Ready? and Refusing to Retire, and founder of RetireNotes.com

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