Sunday, November 16, 2014

Retirement Brings Grief To Some- Really?

One can easily understand that for many Americans the prospect of retirement would bring grief and even terror. Too many, indeed as presented on Suze Orman's show on PBS last weekend, don't have enough saved, are 'underwater' in their mortgages and otherwise in deep credit card debt. These people mainly never learned the basic principles of personal finance and so find themselves deep in holes which they consciously or unconsciously created.

Another subgroup of "griefers" constitutes those who don't know what to do with their time. They now have endless hours and no clue how to spend them. So they while away their time, day after day, glued to their TVs or computers, and just watching time pass. (In some cases this group also has inadequate savings so can't afford to travel to expand their realm of experience, for example).

But another group displays grief, according to WSJ writer Tom Lauricella, because their identities were always tied up with their jobs so leaving those jobs essentially destroys their identity. According to Lauricella ('For Some, Retirement Brings Grief'):

"After decades of punching a clock, most retirees look forward to slowing down, having more time for interests and activities that had been squeezed into a few hours at night or on weekends.

But not everyone makes that transition easily. For some, career is identity, co-workers are their social network, and providing for family their purpose. These retirees find themselves adrift, struggling in a time of life everyone keeps telling them they should be relishing, a time that they had themselves believed they would enjoy."

According to Carmen Morano a Professor at Hunter College, quoted in the piece:

"A lot of people don't realize that how they define themselves is by the work they do...There's the idea that we wake  up at 67 and now we put on a different set of clothes and do something different. But they realize they never thought through who they were because they were too busy earning a living"

Which is sad,, because as Lauricella notes, it drives many into deep depression and they end up spending more of their free years zoned out on Paxil or Zoloft as zombies than doing anything productive.  The good news? With a bit of time and effort, new retirees "can find ways of working their way out of the funk".

This entails introspection, however, which is an attribute too many Americans lack. Introspection means pulling away from your assorted cells, smart phones, Ipads and TVs and just being still, emptying your mind, and meditating - or simply pulling the plug on chaotic thoughts. Try it for even ten minutes and see if you can do it!  It's harder than you believe because we're bombarded by stimuli demanding attention 24/7.

It also appears many people may actually need education to learn how to get on in their retirement years. Prof. Morano observes, for example, that there are many resources available for people to re-orient themselves. Government -sponsored departments on aging are often helpful. There are also mentoring programs that put business skills to use, and forum like All Experts, where former lecturers and academics can volunteer their time to answer questions. I put in something like 30 hours a month on average doing this, in the forums of astrophysics, astronomy and Atheism-Agnosticism.

I also blog, and part of that is education, for example in multiple areas including math, astronomy, astrophysics.

Finally, for those not yet retired, a lesson to put to work now is observing the degree to which your working life is currently consuming your time and energy. If it is anywhere near 70 percent you need to sound the alarms and back off, because otherwise you will find it extremely difficult to ease up later.

You need to think about diversifying your interests now, including spending more time with spouse or family.

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