'Retiring' - within that word is 'tiring,' and I'm not tired. I don't believe in retirement, really. Theodore Bikel
Sitting at home, an occasional 100-meter walk and the weekly family Zoom call. Let’s face it, it’s been quite boring for the last month. Yes, I read the touching Facebook and other social-media posts about how great all the family time has been, and how everyone is enjoying working from home, at least those who still have a job, and I don’t buy it.
Responding to my question of why wake-up time is in the early afternoon, my eldest daughter responded, “Why should I wake up early? There is nothing to do.”
Personally, I have been bouncing off the walls for the last few weeks. I can’t understand why there is nothing new in the fridge every 15 minutes when I pop up to check what I can eat? As for the enhanced family time, it’s been a real treat; now back to work and school.
It’s been very hard to stick to a daily schedule. Earlier this week, I excitedly told my wife that I was so proud that I got up at 6:30 a.m., prayed, learned with my study partner via Skype for an hour and a half, took a walk and learned some more. It was 10 a.m., and then I thought to myself, what am I going to do for the next 14 hours?
That’s when I had the realization that in certain respects, our current Covid-19 lockdown is like a trial run for retirement. It’s certainly not a perfect comparison, but I think it points out aspects of retirement that need to be planned for. Just like all of us on lockdown, the question is how can people retire and find meaning or purpose in their retirement?
I can’t tell you how many times I meet with individuals who plan on retiring in a few weeks or even months, and they have no idea what they plan on doing to fill up their time.
No more 9 to 5
Most people look forward to the day they no longer have to show up for work. After working hard for decades, retirement has been well earned. While as a financial professional it’s often my job to help individuals fund their retirement, I have found that more and more the job entails getting them to start planning and thinking about how they want to spend their time when they no longer need to punch a clock. You better think long and hard before you retire, on how you plan to fill up 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for what could easily be 20 to 30 years!
The day is almost over
Over these last few weeks, in our home the excitement started mounting early afternoon after the last of the children got up. The highlight of our day was what was going to be for dinner. Not the meal itself, but rather the potential of what it might be. Yep. A pretty sad existence. If your retirement has no plan, it’s not going to be much different than our culinary excitement.
More than once I have quoted Joanne Kaufman who wrote in The New York Times about those taking early retirement. She describes a man who retired at 42 years old: “For the first few months after Jon Helmuth retired three years ago, he slept late, acquired a tan and showered at odd times. Actually, some days he didn’t bother to shower at all. After that pleasantly aimless interval, Mr. Helmuth, a divorced father of four who is now 45, began organizing his five-bedroom house in the woods of Vandalia, Michigan, a village near the Indiana border. But once he alphabetized the spice rack and finished making an easy chair out of castoff designer jeans, ‘I started running out of things to do,’” he said.”
That’s classic. It so accurately demonstrates what happens when you retire without a plan. You end up bouncing off the walls after a few months.
For those travel lovers, even when airports reopen and air travel returns to normal, remember that even if you were to travel two months a year, that still leaves 300-plus days to fill up.
A few years in advance start thinking about how you will fill up your time in a meaningful way. Speak to other retirees to understand how they transitioned from decades of going to work to this new chapter in their life. Those who have succeeded in this transition looked at retirement not as the beginning of the end, but rather as a new chapter in their life. This attitudinal approach is crucial in creating optimism that helps give meaning and purpose to this stage of life.
The information contained in this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. or its affiliates.
Aaron Katsman is author of the book Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing. He is a licensed financial professional both in the United States and Israel and helps people who open investment accounts in the US.