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Retirement Questions

Recently I have been reading the Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. After Tom fools his friends into painting his fence, he opines, “Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to.” This quote certainly explains why some people dread yard work and why others love it.

Drudgery for some and therapy for others.

As I write this, I’m on my way to the mountains of North Georgia for an old-school camping trip with my family of seven—yes, we are all staying in one tent. I haven’t yet determined whether this will be work or play—perhaps a little of both. So please don’t let it rain!

Retirement may be considered in similar terms.

Isn’t it intriguing how some people dread it and others long for it? Whether anything is work or play is often a matter of perspective. While it may be a cherished treasure for some, it can also eliminate a central component of identity, a sense of purpose, and generate a few retirement questions. For example, Laura Hawley, a colleague of mine, shared years ago that retirement is a privilege, not a right.

Reaching a point of financial security that enables retirement can bring peace of mind and joy, and the option of retirement can be more valuable than retirement itself. Greater contentment or increased anxiety—both are possible. It is a balancing act, and as much as I love the old Voya commercial with numbers attached to the heads of people, asking viewers, “What’s your number?” retirement should be wrestled with and not considered solely in financial terms.

Instead of asking clients when they want to retire as if it is a foregone conclusion, I have begun to reframe the retirement question about when they hope to have the option to retire.

Retirement QuestionsWork and retirement can both be either a blessing or a curse.

In the same way, one’s level of wealth can be viewed through this lens. Many of us have been taught from an early age that it is more blessed to give than to receive, but most of us spend a disproportionate amount of time focused on accumulating wealth relative to how we should use it.

Perhaps a retirement question that should be asked more often is, “Given my current financial circumstances, in what capacity can I be the greatest blessing to others?” In this career or another one? Working or retired? Working or volunteering? Retired or semi-retired? The reality is that both work and play are essential no matter what stage of life we find ourselves in. Do not make an idol of either. There is time enough for both.

If you are retired and unhappy, find a new purpose. If you are financially secure enough, look for ways to bless individuals and charities. Serve or volunteer more. Please find a new hobby, or dare I say it, go back to work! If you are working and discontent, do not lose heart. As my late Granddad always used to tell me, “Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses!” If you find yourself struggling to see your blessings, may I suggest some extended moments of reflection? When alone, ask Alexa to play the song “It Is Well With My Soul.” And then remember, you are not in Ukraine. You are in the greatest country in the world.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

April 2022

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