Sunday, May 9, 2010

Always Work

How does a book about retirement end up being a book about always working? The answer comes from interviewing people who are approaching the retirement age and learning that they don’t want to retire.

In my interviews I heard stories from people such as John who said, “I have no plans to retire, but I would like to spend less time working”.

Rich, the guy who always believed he had the formula for making money, and he did, actually tried retirement. Rich said, “I thought I had a great retirement plan. I bought property in St. Croix and had dreams of opening a coffee shop. I learned I didn’t know how to handle idle time. I thought I had created my days, and what I learned was the clients who regularly walked in the door had done that for me. I decided my work had been a gift all these years and I went back to it.”

There was also Mike, a retired teacher who said, “I have loved the first five years of retirement. I’m volunteering as a ski patrol and getting to ski free all winter. Then it kind of hit me that I could have another 30 years. I don’t want to play for 30 more years.” Mike is speaking to the human need to have meaning and purpose in our lives. Work does this for many of us.

As you can see, as much as I tried to write a book on retirement, I kept coming up with reasons to continue working. That was it—work is the answer to retirement. Not work as people know it now, but work as they would like to create it. John, who I mentioned earlier, couldn’t imagine retiring, but he easily described work as he would like it to be. “No longer being on-call evenings and weekends and 8-hour days instead of 12-hour days”. The answer to retirement is work.

Am I surprised that including work in retirement is the answer to life after 55? No. As a doctoral student in industrial/organizational psychology, I know there are too many psychological benefits of work to have it completely disappear upon retirement. Yet, the question remains, “How do I gain the benefits of work and retirement?” Do I shift to a part-time position doing more of the same that I have done for 35 years? Do I try something completely different, and if so, how do I know what this is? Where do I begin to discover my life’s work in retirement? These are all questions that will be addressed on this blog, as well as in upcoming free teleclasses. What questions would you like to add to this discussion?