Retirement isn’t a stroll in the park; 8 lessons, I learned!
For 30 years of my adult life, I gave myself to the daily grinds of work — the deadlines, the commuting and the backslapping.
I occasionally daydreamed about the quiet life retirement will offer, and now, several months down the road, I’m discovering that retirement isn’t a stroll in the park with eight lessons I learned!
I’m a new retiree, having reached the mandatory retirement age early this year.
And ever since, I have been my own man paddling furiously upstream against the tide.
Though not fully prepared, it’s my reality and must move with the tide!
Transitioning into retirement
Transitioning into retirement is often a period of self-exploration into the unknown path.
It’s like ending something to begin something, nonetheless, lost in the transitioning process.
Renowned transition expert William Bridges refers to this phase as the neutral zone.
Bridges describes it as the “in-between time when the old is gone, but the new isn’t fully operational”.
He further explains that it is a season, fraught with confusion and distress.
According to him: “It is when the critical psychological realignments and repatternings take place. It is the very core of the transition process.
This is the time between the old reality and sense of identity and the new one. People are creating new processes and learning what their new roles will be”.
Retirement isn’t a work in the park, 8 lessons I learned!
And so today, a few months down the line, I’m going to be sharing eight lessons I have learnt in this new phase of my life, what I call, my survival kit for retirement.
The first of the many lessons is that retirement is something we must prepare for.
# 1 Retirement is something we must prepare for
Without wanting to sound like a Prophet of Doom, I must tell you that retirement is something we must prepare for, although I had thought otherwise.
I underplayed the looming end-of-work cloud gathering over me by not overthinking it.
However, Ann Brenoff, in a Huff Post article titled: 7 Things You Must Do To Successfully Prepare For Retirement
“Nobody likes to hear this, but a good part of our social lives are work-related. And once you are no longer part of the official office “family,” connections tend to drift away.
I agree with Brenoff on this — stepping out of a regulated working lifestyle has a toll on your psyche as you soon become the master of your schedule.
Thankfully, I have gradually adjusted to it, and I will strongly advise that you do the same.
# 2 Have a side gig in place before you step into retirement
Another lesson I learned is the importance of having a side gig in place before you step into retirement.
The sudden shock of not receiving the usual monthly salary alerts is something that can be demoralising.
I usually get payment notifications from my bank at a given time of the month, but now I’m automatically delisted from the agency’s payroll since my retirement.
For this reason, I highly recommend that those almost heading out into retirement must put things in place. I can’t emphasise this enough!
I have an experience that ties nicely into this —before retirement, I had plans to partner with some clients I’d consulted for.
Unfortunately, the plans went awry and led to nowhere.
If I had a proper structure in place before now, my transition into retirement would have been way more manageable.
The next vital lesson I learned is to continue putting your skillset into use, which could be in areas such as part-time or volunteering.
# 3 Continue to put your skillset into use
Working part-time is another option you may want to consider. That you’re older doesn’t mean that you’re antiquated.
According to Age Smart Employer NYC: “Older workers bring a level of experience, critical thinking and sheer knowledge that cannot be taught.”
So, you see, you’re a valuable piece of intellectual and human resource.
After all, you’re retired but not necessarily tired!
The Duval Dental Centre, United States of America (USA), in an article, Preparing for Retirement: 10 Tips to Plan for Your Best Years Ahead,
believe that continuing to work keeps you physically active, stay socially connected and gives you a sense of purpose.
The best way to go about it is to: “Consider your interests and look for a flexible, low-stress position in a related field,” the article further adds.
In addition to that, you could volunteer in a church group, your children or grandchildren’s school, housing estate associations or community.
I find volunteering to be very rewarding and fulfilling.
These should be done in tandem with getting professional advice/ coaching/counselling pre and post-retirement.
# 4 Make sure to get professional advice/counselling pre and post-retirement!
Retirement is something most people can’t fully grapple with until they are into it.
While you may loathe the stress of your job and wish for the occasional vacation in Acapulco to get away from the heat of things, you can’t deny the fulfilment, perks, security, and social connections your work-life accords you.
Walking away from a life you have known for almost all your adult life can’t be any easy.
Thank goodness, many establishments provide pre-retirement talks for their staff who are due to take a bow.
Unlike our earlier retired colleagues who benefited from the regular annual pre-retirement seminars organised by the National Pension Commission, the advent of the COVID-19 Pandemic denied me such an opportunity.
This has thrown me into the deep end, leaving me to figure things out independently.
Anyway, it wouldn’t be for long as I’m availing myself of some retirement enlightenment resources.
You sure would need professional advice, as nothing prepares you for the bureaucratic bottlenecks you must surmount after you retire.
# 5 Be prepared for the bureaucratic bottlenecks!
The popular notion is that you’ll do just fine when you retire.
I fear that it’s not as smooth sailing as you’d imagine.
When I said earlier that retirement isn’t a stroll in the park, it had to do in part with the bureaucratic processes of accessing my Retirement Savings Account (RSA) with my Pension Funds Administrator (PFA).
Before now, many retirees in Nigeria leave service without collecting their full pension benefits.
However, the enactment of the 2004 Pension Act has since streamlined the process.
Still, many retirees will wait until the year ending to receive the first tranche of their funds.
Again, the lot of civil servants in Nigeria is a sharp contrast from those in developed countries. That’s why you must be smart with your money.
# 6 Be Money Smart
In terms of planning for retirement, savings is critical — personal savings and, of course, the usual Pension Plan for the upcoming rainy day.
I can’t emphasise it enough! Start saving now before the sunset of your career appears.
Not only that, but I also had to change my PFA because of poor returns on my investments to a more prudent PFA.
Keep an eye on your investment, and don’t allow your PFA to make you suffer needless loss from the poor investment of your funds.
This brings me to the next point — an encouraging spouse will go a long way.
# 7 Have a good rapport with your spouse
My wife has been of immense help to me since my retirement.
Nonetheless, her support has been stretched beyond reasonable limits, which is why I’m striving to make up for the deficits.
What am I stressing here?
You must have a good rapport with your wife! If you do, she’ll not hesitate to go the extra mile in turbulent times.
Retirement is a daunting reality even for those in well advanced and structured countries.
The fear of the loss of regular income and the transition accompanying it is something everyone must bear.
Therefore, having a supporting spouse is critical to help buoy you through the rough waters.
# 8 Beware of the four D’s
Author Lyndsay Green gives insight into this.
In her book, Ready to Retire? she catalogues the thoughts and experiences of men who were about to retire or already retired.
And their submissions underscore the importance of having good spousal support, as the lack of it may lead to Depression, Divorce and Drinking.
So, no matter how well some have handled retirement, others may not have a support structure that would give them the much needed psychological balance.
The lesson here is that one must be mentally tough to handle the psychological impact of retirement to avoid tragic consequences.
Whether we like it or not, the seemingly distant day of retirement will surely come, and pending that day, we must prepare for it because it’s inevitable.
Going by my experience, we must take time to prepare for our retirement mentally, financially and otherwise.
My final submission in all of these is this: Life after formal work is not a bad thing.
It’s an opportunity to rediscover yourself and that the neutral zone is necessary for growth.
According to William Bridges, it is the “seedbed for new beginnings”.
After all, being a retiree doesn’t imply that you are antiquated.
You have only ended a phase to embark on another, well-equipped with life lessons this time.
Please feel free to leave a comment below.
Emmanuel Okara is a retired journalist (formerly of the News Agency of Nigeria)and is now into consultancy. He lives in Lagos with his family. He’s married with a daughter.