7 Retirement Expectations You’re Getting All Wrong

 Much of the focus on retirement planning is centered on finances. While grappling with the question of whether you can afford to stop work, little thought is given to what you will actually do with your days, if you manage it. Here are the seven biggest myths, which lead to retirement dissatisfaction:  http://huff.to/1iew6Ss

1) I’ll spend more time with family and friends.
Well, you may want to spend more time with family and friends, but will they have the time to spend with you? You may have time on your hands, but your friends and family members who work are still on the hectic treadmill you just stepped off of.

It can be a real sticky wicket when it comes to family. Are you sure that your adult daughter and her family really want to come over every Sunday for dinner? And conversely, are you going to feel like an unappreciated and unpaid babysitter when she asks you to pick up the kids after school and take them to dance and soccer practices?

2) I’ll get to do all the things I don’t have time to do now.
Fair enough, but just what are those things? Nothing personal, but your garden plants don’t need you for eight hours a day. And once you binge watch “Breaking Bad” and are all caught up, then what? One of the big things that changes when you no longer go to work each day is that your time becomes unstructured. While that sounds terrific in the abstract and may work for a few in the long run, most people find they are bored. Nobody wants to become that person for whom going to the doctor becomes that day’s principal event.

So how will you fill your days? Be honest. Not everyone has the soul of a volunteer. When people associate their worth with being paid for their skills, it’s often hard for them to feel the benefits of working for free — even if it’s for a good cause. Experts suggest making a list of things you genuinely like to do and think realistically about how much time a week you would want to devote to those things if you had the time. No, you won’t really want to play golf or go fishing all day, every day, even if you think you do now. Make a second list of things you could do: take college courses, start a hobby business, learn some new skills.

3) It’s ideal if both my mate and I can retire at the same time.
That’s a “Whoa Nellie!” After decades of only seeing your spouse mainly on nights and weekends, you probably don’t have much experience with the 24/7 thing. And it’s a doozie, say the experts. “Two-earner couples often haven’t spent that much time together at home because during the day they were both working,” Maximiliane Szinovacz, a gerontology professor at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, said in an interview with U.S. News. “Now that they are both at home, one of the issues becomes how much time to spend together.”

She suggests working it out before you actually retire — and write into the plan some time apart where you each pursue your separate interests.

4) It’s fine if I retire and my mate keeps working.
Not necessarily. If both you and your mate have been working outside the house, you probably have an unspoken division of labor when it comes to household chores and errands. She-cooks-he-cleans-up kind of thing. Nothing builds resentment faster in the still-working mate than when the person who is now at home full-time doesn’t pick up more of the chores. It’s worth having a discussion about — before the situation boils over.

5) I’ll still be important to my work colleagues.
Work friendships are a tricky thing. When what you principally have in common is the job, the friendship is going to change dramatically when you leave the team. For one, you no longer will be in on the day-to-day news of the office. And for another, as your retirement life evolves, you likely will care less about what’s going on at your former company. Gradually, many of those friendships that feel close in the office will drift away. It just happens.

The goal, of course, is that you create another situation that replaces the office. It means getting out more in the community and getting involved with something else — and other people. But relying on the camaraderie of your former officemates is bound to lead to disappointment.

6) My retirement “visual’ is walking hand-in-hand along an exotic beach somewhere.
Wait! Isn’t that the ad for Viagra? While traveling to romantic places is probably on everyone’s short list, don’t kid yourself: Those trips will be few and far between and you should probably be spending more time visualizing what you will do on those days in between trips. How much traveling you actually do will depend on your finances. But as a rule, people on fixed incomes need to make their dollars stretch — and the Great Recession left many midlifers shaking in their boots about their financial security. An Allianz life insurance company study found that 82 percent of respondents ages 44 to 49 with dependents, feared outliving their money more than death. That doesn’t sound like a crowd spending much time at the Four Seasons in Bali, does it?

Finding less expensive ways to travel — home swaps, staying with friends, travel off-season — will enable people to not bury the dream altogether, but having a realistic expectation also helps avoid disappointment.

7) I won’t be alone.
Statistically speaking, if you are a woman you likely will be. According to the Administration on Aging, of the almost 35 million Americans who are age 65 or older, three out of five are women. Projections say that by 2040, there will be 127 women to every 100 men age 65 and older.

So what does this mean except that cruise lines are already hiring “gentleman hosts” to keep the solo-traveling ladies happy? It means that we likely will be forming housing units together, traveling with friends instead of spouses, and relying more on one another to help us through aging’s rough spots.

The Dangerous Myth of Reinvention

Gary Maxworthy spent three decades in business until a personal tragedy prompted him to reexamine his priorities. He left the corporate world behind, set off to find his true calling, and in the process discovered both a new identity and the path to accomplishing his most important work fighting hunger.

In this telling, Maxworthy is an archetypal example of the reinvention mythology that seems omnipresent today, especially when it comes to those in the second half of life. Self-help columns are packed with reinvention tips. Financial services ads depict beaming boomers opening B&Bs and vineyards. More magazine, that bastion of midlife uplift for women over 40, even sponsored a series of reinvention conventions.

Retirement itself, we’re advised, is being reinvented.

There’s no denying the heroic appeal of the reinvention narrative, especially to 50- and 60-somethings confronting uncharted territory and the imperative to forge ahead with a new chapter. And this notion surely beats the counter-narrative that says you’re washed up at some arbitrary age, your best work behind you with two choices: hanging on or the abyss.

Yet for all its can-do spirit, I’ve come to believe the reinvention fantasy — the whole romance with radical transformation unmoored from the past — is both unrealistic and misleading. I’ll even go further: I think it is pernicious, the enemy of actual midlife renewal.

For the vast majority of us, reinvention is not practical — or even desirable. On a very basic level, it’s too daunting. How many people have, Houdini-like, escaped the past, started from scratch, and forged a whole new identity and life? Sure, it happens — but not often, at least outside of Hollywood.

More troublesome is the underlying assumption that the past — in other words, our accumulated life experience — is baggage to be disregarded and discarded. Isn’t there something to be said for racking up decades of know-how and lessons, from failures as well as triumphs? Shouldn’t we aspire to build on that wisdom and understanding?

After years studying social innovators in the second half of life — individuals who have done their greatest work after 50 —I’m convinced the most powerful pattern that emerges from their stories can be described as reintegration, not reinvention. These successful late-blooming entrepreneurs weave together accumulated knowledge with creativity, while balancing continuity with change, in crafting a new idea that’s almost always deeply rooted in earlier chapters and activities.

That’s a clear lesson inherent in the work of the 430 winners and fellows of the Purpose Prize, an annual award for social entrepreneurs and innovators in the second half of life (sponsored by my organization, Encore.org).  In 2007, Gary Maxworthy was one of them.

As a young man, Maxworthy heard JFK’s call to service and aspired to join the Peace Corps. But practicality intervened: He had a family to support, and put his early dreams on hold to work.  And work he did, for 32 years in the for-profit food distribution business. Then his wife died of cancer. That tragedy forced him to reevaluate his life, particularly how he would spend the coming decades. Maxworthy then joined VISTA, the domestic sister organization of the Peace Corps, which in its wisdom placed Maxworthy in the San Francisco Food Bank.

The food bank, he quickly realized, was only set up to distribute canned and processed foods. Meanwhile, his years in the food business had taught him that an enormous amount of fresh food is discarded daily by growers throughout the state, simply because it is blemished. Drawing on his knowledge of how to distribute large quantities of food in ways that preserved freshness, he launched Farm to Family — which distributes nutritious food, that otherwise would have been thrown out, to food banks in California and elsewhere.

Maxworthy might have been able to do some good as an idealistic young Peace Corps volunteer, but after a significant body of midlife work, he was able to accomplish something truly remarkable, something at the intersection of experience and innovation — qualities long regarded as oxymoronic in nature.  You could say Maxworthy put two and two together, except in this case common sense logic led to something larger: this year Farm to Family distributed over 100 million pounds of food.

I could recount a hundred other tales with essentially the same pattern, and fundamentally the same lessons — tales of reintegration that are not only more pragmatic than the reinvention fantasies but also, to my mind, far more heartening.  They affirm the value of what we’ve learned from life and remind that the seeds of change — even very big change — are often already within us.

Why, then, has the reinvention myth proved so persistent, even as it serves us poorly?  I think the answer lies deep in American character and history. Literary critic R. W. B. Lewis unearthed this cultural vein in his classic 1955 volume, The American Adam.  From the earliest days of the republic, Lewis wrote, Americans were enthralled with the ideal that they could fashion a future liberated from the past. One magazine of the 19th century movement known as Young America wrote, for example, in 1839: “Our national birth was the beginning of a new history … which separates us from the past and connects us with the future only.”

D.H. Lawrence observed in 1923 that glorifying the new and jettisoning the old amounted to “the true myth of America.”  In this narrative, Lawrence writes, America “starts old, old, wrinkled and writhing in an old skin.  And there is a gradual sloughing of the old skin, towards a new youth.”

That perspective has not only influenced our view of youth, but of later life.  The Golden Years retirement mythology was built around the dream of a second childhood, graying as playing. Retirement communities were age segregated not only to avoid school taxes, but somewhat paradoxically, to evade the idea of old age itself.  If everyone was old, then no one was old.

To me that’s the most damaging part of the reinvention mythology: the preoccupation not only with rebirth, but with youth itself, even as it is slipping away. Today 70 is upheld as the new 50, 60 the new 40 or even 30, and 50 practically adolescence.

So as we head into the resolution season, let’s think less about reinvention and more about forging ahead in ways that draw on our accumulated knowledge — what former Alvin Ailey star Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish describes as “all the things that life has put into you.”

And as the nation enters the year in which the youngest of the boomers will turn 50, and we take another sizable step into the graying century, let’s think about a new myth of America, one that breaks free from the notion of eternal youth, and that learns to appreciate the true value of experience.

by Marc Freedman  |   10:00 AM January 1, 2014    http://encore.org/

The need for a different story of retirement

Retire – the word conjures up a string of endings – and when applied to the end of one’s working life the implication is that we are no longer useful, we have nothing more to contribute, we have no more value that we can add.

  1. to withdraw or go away to a place of privacy, shelter, or seclusion.
  2. to go to bed.
  3. to give up or withdraw from an office, occupation, or career, usually because of age.
  4. to fall back or retreat, as from battle.
  5. to withdraw from view.
  6. to withdraw from circulation by taking up and paying, as bonds or bills.
  7. to withdraw (troops, ships, etc.), as from battle.
  8. to remove from an office or active service, as an army officer.
  9. to withdraw (a machine, ship, etc.) permanently from its normal service.
  10. to put out (a batter, side, etc.).

So – time for a different story – of Eldering rather than Retiring. And where do we find Elders? In the stories of Heroes. Heroes who are guided and mentored by an older, wiser, experienced person. Why have we allowed ourselves to be hidden away in retirement homes when there is such important work for us to do?

The need for a cohesive human connection

The need to move beyond the boundaries of ourselves as individuals and to Bond with a group is so primordial and necessary to humans that it remains the key determinant of whether we remain healthy or get ill, even whether we live or die. It is more vital to us than any diet or exercise programme; it protects us against the worst toxins and the greatest adversity; it is the best drug in the world—even better than diet and exercise.

The Bond we make with a group is the most fundamental need we have because it generates our most authentic state of being: the sense of belonging, of being part of something bigger.


Will Boomers collapse the economy or start the next social revolution?

This is the first generation in history looking at a life span of 77.7 years for men and 82.5 years for women. Boomers, renowned for the civil rights movements, are now being called to create a new model for growing older in today’s world.

By 2047, it is estimated that worldwide people over 60 will outnumber those under 15 for the first time in human history. Longevity is changing every aspect of our lives—from relationships within our families to social security, insurance, education and work opportunities. The 2007 UN Report on World Population Aging sees the ‘graying’ of the world’s population as “a major challenge to the intergenerational and intra-generational equity and solidarity that are the foundations of society.”

John L. Hennessy, president of Stanford University, foresees that in the USA, “By 2057, the combined effects of Medicare and Social Security will be equal to the entire tax revenue of the country, assuming that tax revenue grows as fast as GDP.”

According to Professor Robert Saplofsky of Stanford, aging is a rare event in the natural world — and we, as human beings, are both ambivalent and ambiguous about it. He suggests that current options for addressing longevity are either to accommodate things we can’t change or to “rage against the dying of the light.” There are no precedents for dealing with an aging population at the scale we are facing.

So, will Boomers collapse the world economy or start the next social revolution?

In The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, researcher Dan Buettner identified five ‘blue zone’ areas around the world where longevity and high levels of happiness co-exist. In these five locations, aging was not automatically equated with disability. Long life was seen as a gift of time and an opportunity to keep contributing wisdom and energy to the community. Common principles for the centenarians included knowing your life’s purpose and creating a healthy social network, especially with younger family members.

Boomers intentionally creating relationships with Millennials could be the key to our future.

According to the PEW report Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next, the people who passed into adulthood at the turn of the 21st century don’t see their elders as an inconvenience. They respect and appreciate them. They prefer being connected and having a community of support. They interact as partners, listen to their family and friends as their ‘trusted experts’, confidently ask questions and then make choices. A majority of them say Boomers are superior when it comes to moral values and work ethic. They know that, as their elders age, they may not contribute in the same ways to their lives, but they do want them to contribute nonetheless.

The challenge is that Boomers, on the other hand, were brought up to be self-sufficient and independent. They don’t necessarily expect younger generations to listen to them or to want to collaborate with them.

There is an opportunity for Boomers to have a different relationship with their children than the relationship they had with their parents. Boomers may want to consider shifting their understanding of and relationship to aging and intentionally sharing their wisdom—their perspective, their experience and the best of who they are—in a way that brings out the best in younger generations. Boomers can learn a new way of eldering families and communities such as proposed through the ‘Older to Elder’ organization.

Using our extra years wisely isn’t just about us. Boomers are the role models younger generations have for growing older. In partnership with the Millennials, Boomers could help create a world that is just as responsive to the needs of the very old as the very young. The gift of longevity may actually be an opportunity for us to start the next social revolution, to turn the tide toward a more environmentally sustainable, socially just and life-enhancing future.

© 2011 Shae Hadden. All rights reserved.