“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” – Mark Twain
If you just recently came back from your vacation, you likely addressed the greatest of all existential questions. When can I retire?
Not that we all hate work, but some of us long for something more. Or perhaps just something different.
But what does retirement mean? Is this simply stopping work? Most of us stop work while we sleep. Some of us may dream of work, but that requires greater psychotherapy than what we have time for right now.
Retirement becomes a transition from one phase to another phase of life. Some consider retirement a transition into leisure, which requires its own definition.
Robert Stebbins, a sociologist, wrote a number of books including The Idea of Leisure, First Principles. He describes leisure as an uncoerced, contextually framed activity engaged in during free time, which people want to do and, using their abilities and resources, actually do in either a satisfying or a fulfilling way. He suggests taking four different ways to achieve this type of leisure.
Firstly, a person requires a good balance of activities. Constant leisure may be a difficult thing to achieve. One must include any number of things one does not want to do. Call them duties.
Secondly, leisure also requires positive continuous improvement. Sitting on a beach with an unending supply of tiny umbrella drinks sounds pleasant, and it likely could be for the first hour. Or two. But he suggests continuously improving oneself, even though this sounds exhausting
Thirdly and fourthly, he suggests positive relationships and positive interaction with the community. We are better overall interacting with the rest of society. After all, we are all in this together, and no one is getting out of here alive anyway.
I formulated a series of ten steps for a contented retirement. Because a constantly happy retirement would also be just as exhausting.
- Like Alice in Wonderland, metaphorically figure out where you want to end up. If you do not know where you want to go, then any road lined with mini umbrella drinks will get you there. This likely includes thinking where you actually want to be during certain points of time. Staying in one place allows seeing all of the seasons. Move around and perhaps you can follow your favorite season.
- An important point would be discussing retirement planning with your significant other. You are going to be seeing more of each other. A lot more. And if my spouse were reading this, I would just confirm that it sounds fantastic!
So it would better to be on the same page. After a few months, you might be thinking about exploring the middle of Asia. And your suffering spouse may be beginning to think that sending you there sounds like a good idea.
- Next, you really have to pin down your potential revenues coming in and what your expenses might be. We spend so much time on revenue generation that we do not spend the same amount of time as to what the future might look like and the potential costs of that. At some point in time, you are going to want to downsize that house along with your cars. This might correspond with increased medical costs. You might want to move closer to your children so that you can be closer to any potential grandchildren. A decrease in the distance is inversely proportional to the amount of guilt that is produced.
- If you adhere to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, then you know that actualization can be found at the very top. If you did not become actualized before you retired, then now would be the time. Figuring out what that looks like and how to get there could become a fulltime activity.
- Working part-time gives you the opportunity to bring in a bit of spending money. This might involve using the skill sets you developed at your regular job, or perhaps you might try monetizing the hobby that you have started in the past few years.
- If possible, this would also be a great time to follow your bliss. Joseph Campbell advocated this for leading a meaningful life. Most lawyers do not appear to be in a blissful state while working, so we can safely assume that this bliss might be found elsewhere.
- Like anything, trying to maximize your happiness/contentment/bliss requires planning. Although enlightenment requires serendipity, all other forms of actualization can require a bit of planning. You should not expect that going off to the deck with a cup of coffee and the morning paper is going to maximize your HCB. Maximizing your mini umbrella collection will not cut it after a while.
- Developing a solid relationship with another person and getting socially active ties you in with your community. Although hell might be other people, they can be of great benefit also.
- Finally, consider retiring early. One does not know what the future holds with respect your or your significant other’s health, so it would be better to take advantage of things while you can. Predictions are hard. Especially about the future says Yogi Berra.
- Don’t forget John Lennon. Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.