The Retirement Dream

I posted recently in the sailing group a post entitled ‘How to Live Your Dream ‘ but it has since occurred to me that that puts the cart before the horse. First you have to create your dream, not adopt a ready-made one created on your behalf by somebody who wants to sell you something.

Our thoughts about retirement are conditioned by the ‘retirement industry’ advertising. Part of it manipulates the natural fear of not having enough money to live on – the “Let us look after your money” pitch. Tied to this is the assumption you will maintain the same life-style and continue with all the same trappings and habits that you had when working.

The next part works on the concern about replacing work satisfaction with other activities – ‘Life can be one endless beach party at our resorts or on our cruise ships.” For most people that lasts for about two years before a malaise settles in – “Is this all there is to life?” Living vicariously through the lives of children and grandchildren often becomes a fall back solution which through slow metamorphosis changes you into a burden to your children.

This is the retirement trap. Nowhere in this picture is there a place for intellectual challenge and stimulating the adrenalin through a little risk taking.

The solution for us was to look at retirement as a new segment of life that did not continue with the assumptions and ‘props’ of our previous life. A ‘tabula rasa’ start.

When you look at it this way you realise that the ‘stuff’ that you have accumulated gives very poor return in the satisfaction versus cost equation, especially when you remove the ‘status in your peer group’ factor. In fact, much of what you have been doing is not really giving a thrill of satisfaction; you are doing things that everyone else is doing because that is the thing to do. So clear your mind of all restraints and make a list of the things that bring you joy or that your inner self has wanted to do. Think about intellectual challenges and the thrill of venturing outside your comfort zone. Once you have the list the next step is to build a way of implementing this new segment of your life.

Now you have a dream.

For us it was coastal cruising in Europe because it combined intellectual challenges of navigation and a multitude of cultures that frequently pushed us out of our comfort zone. Any risk taking is entirely within our control so we can choose the amount of adrenalin that we want. Also the cost of this life style is a fraction of our pre-retirement cost because we committed and burned our bridges. We did not try to hang on to all the trappings of a previous life style, although this was a gradual process of getting rid of ‘stuff’ a it no longer had any significance for us.

Finally, because we lead such interesting lives in various places we find that it is our children and grandchildren who live this adventurous life vicariously through us and frequently come to see us!

Perhaps we should call it the ‘anti-retirement’ dream?