As my regular readers know, I pulled the plug on full-time employment back in March this year. Why? Because I didn’t enjoy the type of work I was doing or the people I was doing it with. I won’t go into any detail on this but needless to say, once I calculated I was actually financially independent and no longer had to earn an income, I made up my mind that the time had come to stop going through the five or six day a week torture we have come to know as ‘the job’.
So since March, how have I spent my new-found leisure time? Well in some ways, productively, and in other ways, not. Firstly, no more 5am wake-ups although I’m generally awake by 7am so my life hasn’t regressed into what I’d term ‘holiday mode’. We do eat very well since I have time to start preparing dinner at around the same time I had previously been fighting the traffic home, so our dinners are not only more varied but have a lot more care and attention devoted to them. And since I love to cook, this will never become a chore.
What I have found is that the psychological shackles of over 30 years of being a mostly productive unit of the workforce a little harder to shrug off than I would have thought. For many years, my career was growing in sales and marketing in the telecommunications industry. From starting off way back in the mists of time ‘on the tools’ I moved onward and upwards into positions of Sales Specialist, Business Development Manager, and various business-2-business corporate sales roles. In most of these positions, my role was to to develop innovative ways to outsmart our competitors and ultimately make plenty of money for my company. Makes sense doesn’t it.
Until a few years ago, when I reached a point where I felt an overwhelming need to ditch the corporate bullshit and do something completely different which led me to moving to Australia and work in a coal mine followed by other earthmoving operator jobs. However, I don’t think that the sales, marketing, and entrepreneurial spirit has ever completely left my body.
Which has led me to setting up my new, post-retirement, online side-hustle selling products that test for the presence of illegal drugs. The drug problem here is increasing and there’s a growing need for testing people for drug impairment, and houses, vehicles, schools, motor homes etc. for drug residue contamination. It’s still early days and although there are some orders coming through, it doesn’t really occupy a great deal of my day.
So, you say, I must be loving this new-found freedom to do whatever I want, when I want, no stress, no pressure, no job. Well, yes, and no.
I’m now starting to understand why some people never retire. It’s always struck me as being a little bit obsessive that one would want to keep working long after they could have, and possibly should have, knocked that job on the head and taken to spending their golden days doing whatever the hell they want. But perhaps many of these people don’t have anything else they’d rather do. Perhaps the idea of spending their days playing golf, bowls, or whatever other pastimes that seem to be associated with retirees offers no interest to them whatsoever. Maybe, after half a century or more of the same routine, hanging out with the same people, going to the same place every working day, the idea of stopping just seems impossible.
Suddenly ditching regular employment for what is supposed be a life of endless freedom to do whatever also leaves plenty of time for boredom. Days that need to be filled with meaningful content and maybe I’m not there yet. Maybe I’m just not really ready for ‘retirement’.
According to an article on Investopedia, there are six phases to retirement.
1. Pre-retirement aka the Planning Phase – This is where you are counting down to the big day. You have a date set. It could be several years away, but you know that it’s coming and you tick off each work day as another step closer to being able to do all of those things you’ve been planning for; the travel, spending time at the holiday home, golf every day…bliss!
2. The Big Day. Handshakes, smiles, farewells – Often marked with formal and informal get-togethers, farewell speeches, and gift giving ceremonies (I never got any of this by the way).
3. The Honeymoon – This is where the sense of freedom kicks in and you get to do all of the things you’ve been planning during those pre-retirement years. Apparently, there’s no set time frame for this. It continues until you run out of pre-planned activities. Ideally, this is where you want to spend the rest of your days isn’t it.
4. Disenchantment. Is this it? – Like a marriage, the early honeymoon phase usually only lasts so long and then the reality of day-to-day life kicks in. For most retirees, the bucket list of post-retirement must-dos will get ticked off and there is often the realisation that many of those items cost a lot of money that isn’t being topped up every week with a regular pay cheque.
This is when the reality that retirement isn’t a permanent vacation after all; it also can bring loneliness, boredom, feelings of uselessness and disillusionment.
5. Reorientation. Building your new life – This is the stage where you leave who you were or what you were when you left your working life behind. “I was a successful business manager, but now I’m becoming a great golfer”, or “I use to be a senior financial controller making multi-million dollar decisions for my company, but now I’m volunteering my time and experience to help a local charity”. Many people base who they are around what they do in their careers. “I am a chef”, “I am a teacher”, but retirement is about shaking off what you were, and thinking about what you want to become. “Who am I now?” and “what is my purpose at this point?”
6. Routine. Moving on – Oddly, this phase almost takes us back to where we began pre-retirement. When we retire, we have images and ideas of having so much free time that we can do everything we’ve always wanted to do, and are able to to do something different every day if the mood takes us. The reality is that most humans are creatures of habit and routine. Most of us are unable to cope with long periods of constant change, and disruption in our lives. We like familiar landscapes, so eventually we will form a different but comfortable life routine. The biggest difference between pre and post retirement is that now we can break that routine any time we want because our time is our own.
According to the psychologists, retirees who have spent plenty of time and thought pre-retirement, transition into this new phase in their lives a lot better than those who take the leap more spontaneously. I fall into the ‘spontaneous’ category which could be the cause of some underlying anxiety I have about what I want to do now.
I reckon I’m between Phases 3 and 4 with a little bit of phase 5 thrown in right now. So does that mean I’m on my honeymoon, disillusioned with my new bride, and already checking out the other single ladies? (he gulps uncomfortably).
Apparently, most retirees, whether making the transition early, or those that follow the traditional route, experience these phases to some degree, and it’s how well you plan before making the leap that will determine how long you take to become comfortable with this significant life change. I think my retirement plans need a bit more work.
Are you nearing retirement and planning what you’re going to do once you pull the plug on full time work? And if you are, how do you want to spend this new found freedom? Or have you already retired? Did you have plans in place and did you follow them or have they changed over time? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.