Until a few years ago, retirement was generally seen as a well-deserved reward for so many years of honorable service, and that a decent pension was the tangible goody you got, a veritable pot of gold attainable at the end of the career rainbow. The attitude being that they will now pay you not to lead, organize, or troubleshoot, but simply wake up each morning. Your new responsibility is to only in- and exhale. And so, in this paradigm, the old-timer could then walk, or crawl away into a sunset of complete, but comfortable, inertia. And irrelevance; or worse…
Now more than ever, some-especially professionals and higher echelon corporate types- are increasingly reluctant to cash out when they reach retirement age. The reasons for this change in thinking have less to do with economic wants, and more to do with psychological needs. I should know because the haunting ambivalence of whether to stay or to go plagues me on a daily basis. Maybe, just maybe, I can stay lucky enough to, at least for now, pretty much call my own shots. But, were I unlucky enough to get stuck with some ‘wunderkind’ as my next boss, I’ll book, and hopefully sans bitterness, real fast.
Even so, you may ask, why would anyone elect to continue working, with all of the problems and wear and tear that it entails, when the golden age brass ring is within reach? If you’re reading this blog you might be too young to even think about retirement, but take it from one who knows, the aging process and the inevitable baggage it brings, career and otherwise, confronts all of us. It’s not a matter of if, but rather of when.
In deference to the surreal and Twilight Zone nature of the whole subject, I’ll take the liberty of paraphrasing Rod Serling and “submit the following terrifying retirement facts, for your consideration…”
1. A Life Changer: Retirement is way up there on the psychic Richter Scale, along with such other traumatic events as divorce, the death of a spouse, or any other major losses we can suffer. It’s about change, and adjustment, and all of the physical impacts (none of which are good) that this kind of event can have on you. Scary enough, don’t you think?
2. Self-esteem: It’s axiomatic that the more your personal and professional identities are intertwined, the more deflated you’ll feel upon retirement. It’s not really about the ‘perks’ that you have to give up, but more about the fact that the power, rank, title and position you earned and enjoyed- become nothing more than a memory. From needed to seemingly useless, you go from being a head honcho one day to just another old guy that lives down the street, the next.
3. Socialization: Even the biggest misanthrope has to admit that work, especially in an office environment, demands a certain level of, albeit sometimes forced, socialization. While I’m not playing the ‘”we’re all family” gambit, I know that the daily communication and cooperation that work requires we have with subordinates, peers and other stakeholders, adds a very healthy, stimulating and desirable social dimension that we too often take for granted. In this case, silence isn’t golden!
4. Mortality: Retirement signals the end of… A career, a lifestyle, a satisfying routine, and maybe even a sense of self. Or worse. Those damned TV medical commercials sure don’t help, either. They invent new diseases every day, and the cure’s usually worse than the illness. Nor, by the way, do the life insurance ads, with some has-been actor begging you to (at any age, no exam necessary) take care of your family “…just in case”, help. Even charities are now pitching the living will type of donation.
I don’t know about you, but I always hated clichés and ranked the trite “Time marches on” as among the very worst of them. I, after all, never thought that it applied to me. How ironic, how very ironic…
This is a guest post from an anonymous soon-to-be retiree.