Have we been sold a bill of goods when it comes to retirement? Is retirement just an artificial finish line created by the real estate, leisure and financial industries to get us to quit work and consume or invest more?
That premise was put forward by Mitch Anthony, author of The New Retirementality: Planning Your Life and Living Your Dreams…at Any Age You Want in a recent webinar I attended.
Retirement is a relatively new concept – it’s only been around for about 130 years. Up until the late 1800’s, people literally worked until they dropped. The idea that one should retire before that was introduced in the industrial age in Europe to move out older workers who were considered no longer productive. In North America, it was introduced during the last century to make room for young, unemployed workers during the Great Depression.
The marketers took off with the concept, selling retirement as the prize we got after crossing the finish line of work – where we could live a life of leisure, complete with dream homes, costly recreational activities, and fat investment funds. And boy, did we buy it!
Work became a dirty word and counting down the days until we had nothing to do with it, a favorite pastime. But living a life of leisure is the worst thing most people can do in later life, says Anthony. We’ve been sold on a ‘consuming’ retirement where we create bucket lists and buy, play, drink and dine our lives away. When in actual fact, what satisfies most people is a ‘contributing’ retirement.
We’ve been sold on a consuming retirement when what satisfies is a contributing retirement. – Mitch Anthony
Most retirees go through a honeymoon phase where they are thrilled to be free of work, gain control over their own schedule and just de-stress and relax. But after 1-2 years, many begin to feel something is missing. While there are always exceptions, the purely leisure lifestyle usually ends up boring people and they return to the workforce in droves, according to Anthony.
Those assertions are borne out by studies that show the level of life satisfaction of retirees has been declining over the years. And a 2014 Statistics Canada study does show that 44% of Canadians who exited jobs between age 60 and 64, and a whopping 60% of those aged 55 to 59, were re-employed within 10 years. While boredom and losing one’s sense of identity plays a role in the decision to return to work, declining finances is often cited as the main reason.
So, if you are one of those people that is not enamoured with the idea of living out your years in a life of leisure, what can you do? Anthony’s suggestion is to have an EPIC retirement instead.
E – ENGAGE in something productive, whether you’re being paid or not. You are most fulfilled when hands, head and heart come together in a task; when what you are doing brings values to others and provides you with sense of meaning.
P – Know your PURPOSE. Everyone’s is different, but you need to figure out what makes you feel like your life matters, and gives you the energy to get out of bed every morning.
I – Find a way to INTEGRATE and achieve a balance between your vocation and vacation. A life of leisure is boring and turns you into a bore, according to Anthony. It can also lead to a rapid decline in your mental and physical health.
C – CHALLENGE yourself. Intellectually, physically and spiritually. Focus on creative and generative activities to maintain your brain, body and spiritual health.
We are all wired differently. Understanding yourself and what is meaningful for you will help determine what makes you feel vital and alive in your retirement. And what works for you might not look anything like the retirement lifestyle that is being widely sold.
That artificial finish line? It just might be where your life starts.
We offer a variety of coaching programs and workshops for individuals, couples and groups to help you assess your readiness to retire and how you can create a smooth transition from the workforce or enhance your current retirement lifestyle.