Home » Work or Play? The Absolutely Best (or Worst) Way to Retire

Work or Play? The Absolutely Best (or Worst) Way to Retire

by Louis J. Wasser

A ship is safe in harbor. But that’s not what ships are for. William Shedd

It’s an old question, what to do when you retire. How should you handle your twilight years — travel the world? Start a business? Move near your children and grandchildren? Take a cooking or woodworking class? Go ahead, count the many ways. To paraphrase a great poet: had you world enough and time!

There are so many options out there. It gets confusing, doesn’t it? Here at RedTea News, we plead slightly — only slightly — guilty to having disseminated some of the confusion. We’ve offered a lot of strategies and tips to help you during your retirement, haven’t we?

Don’t get us wrong; we intend to keep offering retirement strategies and tips. We’re very much aware too that others offer retirement tips and strategies. The rise of the Baby Boomer generation has changed American society immensely. At the peak of the Baby Boom, in the years from 1950-1960, this group added “nearly the equivalent of the entire US population at the time of the Civil War.”

The key to a fulfilling retirement is staying engaged.

Does it come as any surprise then that the affairs of Baby Boomers, as they head into retirement, should continue to command attention and concern in the media? After all, it’s an important topic. But much of the advice that’s being propagated in the media and on the Internet is silly and, for want of a more polite word, just plain wrong. There’s too much emphasis on the process and mechanics of retirement, and not enough on motives, desires, and outlook.

More about this mis-placed emphasis in due course. But first let’s consider three old wives tales about retirement that continue to surface in the media and online discussions.

Avoid Stress at All Costs — This Is the Time of Your Life to Relax

Boy, there’s a recommendation that’s certain not to injure you. But how boring! Why not have some milk-toast for breakfast every morning while you’re at it? Was stress, per se, really the problem at work all these years? Or was it the people you worked with? Or was it the fact that you really weren’t appreciated; or that you weren’t doing what you were meant to do?

Now what are you going to do? Sleep late every morning? Watch daytime TV all afternoon? Wall Street Journal reporter Elizabeth Bernstein has alerted us to a new study published last month in Social Science & Medicine, which shows that people at work exhibited markedly lower levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, than they exhibited at home. The lead Penn State researcher on the project, Sarah Damaske, suggests the reason for this is that people at work feel more valued by society than they do when they just putter around at home and do errands. This is as good a signal as any that we need to rethink the whole idea of what’s actually stressful in our lives, and then structure our retirements accordingly.

Hang Around With Those Your Own Age When You Retire

Shuffleboard, anyone? C’mon — what kind of silliness is that? This idea might work for the paid retirement “experts” who organize workshops and seminars. But do you think this kind of advice will work for you? Do you really want to spend your days comparing notes on grandchildren and doctor’s visits? (“My grandchild is the best! My cardiologist is the best!” Ugh!!)

You’ve spent your professional life with people with whom your work situation obliged you to work. Now is the time to choose your own company, and not act like a sheep. Yes, visit old friends and people your own age, by all means. But don’t limit your company to them. Travel widely. Join organizations and health clubs where you can also make friends with younger people. They’ll value your mentorship; but they’ll help keep you younger by clueing you in to new music, new books and new ideas.

Avoid Risk at All Costs

Let’s face it; you take a risk when you step outside in the morning. What are you planning to do: lead a life of agoraphobia? Everything worthwhile involves some risk: travel, working out — and, yes, even investing.

The old saw about investing is that when you’re older you have less time to recover from risky investments. But guess what investors discovered in the 2008 recession: the biggest risk they took with their money was to play it safe, and not take any risks. As a Baby Boomer, especially one in good health, you have more time than you think — at least, more time than people your age used to have. There’s nothing wrong with occasionally investing a small part of your portfolio in a relatively unknown, undervalued company, as long as the company’s performance and figures make sense for, say, the last five years.

Go ahead, take a few risks — as long as they’re prudent, and well-thought-out risks. Life’s too short for you to do otherwise.

As we’ve suggested, too much emphasis has been placed on the mechanics of retirement rather than the individual’s motives and desires. The one key to a fulfilling retirement is staying engaged. This is not a time to do what’s advisable or to become obsessed with what you ought to do. Do what fuels you, what excites you. You only pass this way once.

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