Don’t Lose Yourself in Your Golden Years

Steve McDonald By Steve McDonald
Bond Strategist


Here’s a tale from the retirement belt about the words you never want to hear after you retire. This is why planning for our golden years is about more than just money.

A friend of mine recently discovered just how difficult sudden retirement can be.

He has a Type A personality and worked his way up to a big job. He never should have left the working world or his position as abruptly as he did.

And, as should be expected with a quick exit from the 9-to-5 grind, he tells me he’s bored and that he wanders around the house with nothing to do.

But at a recent neighborhood party, he was confronted with one of the most debilitating aspects of a badly planned retirement.

A person came up to him and asked, “Didn’t you used to be…?”

He no longer was who he had been for 40 years. And he didn’t know who he was anymore.

It hit him like a ton of bricks. The word he used to describe it was “devastated.”

Like it or not, our identities are tied to our work. It is who we are, what we have worked for. When we walk away from it, we leave a big part of ourselves at our jobs. And leisure and relaxation will never replace it.

If we don’t get ahead of it, our self-image becomes just another old retired guy. Not a pretty picture. That’s why so many of us suffer bouts of depression during our golden years!

If your only plan for retirement is to get out and do nothing, I’d highly recommend you reconsider. The numbers don’t lie, and an abrupt end to 30 or 40 years of work is a major shock to our systems and egos. Don’t do it.

I’ve said it here a hundred times… retirement is 25 to 40 years of unemployment. And, along with moving, experiencing the death of a loved one and dealing with a major medical problem, unemployment is one of the most traumatic experiences in life.

Many find going back to school for pleasure or working toward another career to be tremendously rewarding. It will keep you mentally active and social.

Or you can step down in increments from full- to part-time employment, do pro bono work or volunteer. Those allow for a gradual transition and a period of adjustment to a new life and, hopefully, a new identity.

Have a plan that includes enough money and addresses how you’ll make the transition.

Good investing,