Getting Up to Speed on a New Journey in Life
It starts at 1 mile per hour, in first gear. Then chapter by chapter the speed increases as the conversation ranges from planning ahead, assessing finances, setting goals, planning, planning, planning--and then acting on those plans.
Mike Connell and Frank Jenio, Ph.D., team up to present a nuts-and-bolts, common sense approach to the next step after work--seeking and planning a new path. The authors do not advocate finding a beach and working on a tan; rather they suggest that those who are ready to retire think long and hard about what they will do with the remaining years of their lives.
It comes as a surprise when we stop our daily ragged run and realize that there are far fewer years ahead of us than there are behind us. I remember when I saw this curve in my life looming, and suddenly I knew I needed to think about what I still wanted to achieve, see, and experience while I was still able and healthy enough to do so. I began making lists, and working on budgets.
We all know someone who retired only to sink into depression or loneliness. We also know those who suddenly find themselves as full-time babysitter of grandchildren, or swamped under piles of volunteer chores because they could not say no. And we know those who, after a few months of retirement, went back to the workforce. Sadly, we also know those whose health declined so rapidly after leaving their jobs that they enjoyed only a few brief months before disability or death overtook them. Connell and Jenio maintain that lack of planning can derail a retirement and in the process reduce quality of life for retirees. They advocate a positive, assertive approach to assure the years after leaving the workforce are as rewarding as possible.
While most retirement guides focus mainly on financial issues, which are certainly of paramount importance--we all need to eat and pay the bills--these authors caution against letting retirement just happen. Connell and Jenio believe the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of retirement that should be given equal consideration. Pets, yoga, exercise, religion, and even plastic surgery come under their scrutiny as potential sources of well-being in later life.
I found the chapter on Values intriguing. I had not considered how my values influenced why I was retiring and what I wanted to do with my coming freedom. I worked on defining my core values, thinking about them in relation to my plans. Did what I want to do fit with what I value? Since independence, creativity, and freedom were high on my list, my plans to expand my storytelling, gardening and writing interests are right on target. Other chapters explore bucket lists (those things you want to do before you die), having a sanctuary as well as a network, volunteering, boomerang kids, applying for Social Security and much more--55 topics in all, so that by the end of the book the speed of 55 mph is reached.
It's a clever concept but one that works because retirement is as complex a challenge as we are likely to take on in this life. Suddenly it is up to us to make the decisions about what to do each day--no boss to dictate it. How well we manage the transition is a measure of how well we have prepared at each "speed."
Even those with a good many years ahead of them in the work force will find that this book will help them start thinking about the years ahead and what they can do to smooth their path and ensure that retirement is a time of fulfillment and enrichment. Those on the brink, as I am, can take stock of plans and make adjustments. And those already retired will still find information to help them as they move along on this new journey.