I am over one year into a transition to retirement, and as the new normal in my life (and my husband's life) takes shape, I am realizing there are many retirement myths available for public consumption.
When I was Executive Director of Kids Turn, I had the incredible privilege to become acquainted with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, the well-known American pediatrician. Dr. Brazelton was working with his colleague, Dr. Joshua Sparrow, to complete a series of books based on touchpoints in the development of children. These two child development experts suggested that rather than easing into growth benchmarks, children experience 'predictable periods' in their development. By having this information, parents can be excited as they anticipate the onset of each new growth step.
I am coming to believe there are some predictable periods in retirement as well. This notion has also helped me realize there are some retirement myths which need busting.
Myth 1: The sun always shines in retirement. All those pictures of happy white-hairs lounging in beach chairs do not apply to everyone. For professionals, like myself, who largely defined themselves by work, not working is a big, big shock. We live in a culture where upon meeting someone new, we always say, 'what do you do'? And now, the answer is 'nothing'. I struggled with this reality so much I even wrote a 2013 HuffPost blog renaming the life phase Inspirement. The blog still resonates with me a year later, but looking back, I now know the renaming was an effort to avoid saying 'I'm retired'. For those retirees struggling to find their value and self-worth in this new phase of life, I encourage you to consider you are entitled to this leisure time. Be patient with yourself as you decide how to fill it.
Myth 2: You need a lot of money to retire. I strongly suspect blogs and articles suggesting retirees need a big investment portfolio are written by financial advisors. I fear readers of those articles decide they have to keep working, working, working -- including delaying social security.
The fact is, my husband and I have been married for nearly twenty years -- which means we came late in life to investing and saving together. When we began planning to retire, the entire focus was around finances. The reality of our financial circumstances drove our decision to relocate to a vibrant, yet affordable community. We have not been sorry. We moved from a condo in San Francisco to a two-story house and love the increased square footage giving us space to each do our own thing. We don't have a bulging financial portfolio, but we manage within our means and can still travel once or twice each year. In fact, it is fair to say our financial circumstances have improved in retirement. Our debts are paid and our lifestyle has not suffered.
Practically every retiree we have met here made the same decision to relocate and for the same financial reasons. I'd say, we must be on to something.
Myth 3: Retirement self-care is all about exercise. Obviously, turning into a retirement couch potato isn't healthy. However, emotional and intellectual self-care is just as critical as physical well-being. I am developing a class for the UNR/OLLI program entitled, 'What's Your Boomer EQ?' Based on the HuffPost series I wrote last summer, the class will encourage Boomers to build on their life experience and apply practical skills to navigate complex relationships. When we were working, it was easy to let intricate relationships with family and friends perk along even when they were bumpy. Retirement offers a chance to reflect, consider and even CHANGE how we relate to others. Invest in what you need to do to find peace in your life -- a support group, a therapist, a weekly coffee chat with trusted friends. You deserve it.
I'm sure there are additional myths not considered in this column. By tackling these ideas directly, I hope readers can sort through the hype and settle into a satisfying retirement reality unique to their own circumstances.