Friday, December 11, 2015

Is Work the Answer?

I’m learning in my retirement experiment that designing a rewarding and engaging retirement can be harder than working. My age doesn’t help. I’m 57. Most people my age are still working—and working long hours.

I’m very fortunate to not have to spend my days in an office, stressing over work and meeting other people’s demands. This freedom is a gift. And while I’m grateful, I'm also frustrated. What do I do with this gift of time? I think Seth Godin had it right when he wrote, "Freedom is our problem and freedom is our opportunity."

Image result for the internYou know what I'm talking about if you've seen the movie, The Intern. In this movie, Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro), a 70-year-old retiree with too much time on his hands, describes retirement as "an ongoing relentless effort in creativity." After describing all the things he has done to keep himself busy (travel, golf, cooking classes, spending time with his family, hours at Starbucks, etc.) Ben says, "Don't get me wrong. I'm not an unhappy person—quite the contrary. I just know there's a hole in my life and I need to fill it, [long pause] soon." That's when a posted ad for a senior internship program grabs his attention.

Again, if you saw the movie, you know that Ben regains his zest for life as a result of the internship. He has a place to go. He has a reason to get up in the morning. He has younger people to mentor. And he has great respect for his boss, Jules Ostin (Ann Hathaway.) He even finds new love at work (it is a movie!)

So what is the take-away from this movie? If we're feeling a "hole in our lives" is work the answer? To find your answer to this question, reflect on what work has done for you. Identify the benefits of work that you're missing. Then get creative. You may decide that work is the best way to regain these benefits or you may find other ways to fill the hole…and soon.

Listed below are 5 non-financial benefits of work that are often absent in retirement. These missing benefits create what Ben called "a hole in my life." Consider how you can bring these benefits into your life, be it work or another creative endeavor.
  1. Work provides a place to go.
  2. Work develops structure.
  3. Work comes with a community where you have a sense of belonging and affiliation.
  4. Work offers challenges and opportunities for recognition.
  5. Work makes you feel a part of something. 

List other benefits of work that you value and consider ways that you can regain these benefits in retirement.

Copyright 2015 Patrice Jenkins, All Rights Reserved