I speak about retirement issues at conferences and on radio programs quite frequently and I have learned a lot from my listeners. One of the biggest lessons is that retirement itself is surrounded by myths and there is no way to separate the truth from the fiction until we are already in the midst of retirement.
The most important myth is that retirement is all about the money. In fact, that was what led me to write about the emotional side of retirement in the first place. Most of the books on retirement are about saving and investing and worrying about finances. However, if you receive Social Security, have Medicare and some savings or a pension, retirement is less expensive than your work life. No need for business clothes, high dry cleaning bills, commuting and other expenses associated with work. Instead you may downsize your home, take advantage of senior discounts at movies or for travel, and discover many free classes and events right in your own neighborhood
Another myth is that you must move to the sun when you retire. Many people who do not currently live in warm climates somehow assume they will move to one. Of course there are lovely retirement communities in Florida and Arizona and other warm places outside the US, but countless numbers of retirees stay put. They are familiar with their communities, they often have children and grandchildren nearby, and they have friends of long standing where they live.
This is not to say that there aren’t positive things about moving to the sun, but don’t assume you must move and start again just because you are retired. And if you do move, there is more to consider than climate. Be sure you know where the good doctors and hospitals are in your new location, check out the cultural activities available, and research the access to airports if there is an emergency.
Perhaps the silliest myth about retirement is that you will sit around all day, maybe take a walk, and then sit some more. Sure, most people do want to feel they can relax after a long career, but a formerly busy person is not likely to be happy being “un-busy” all the time. If you are healthy and interested, there are so many things to do in retirement, from starting a new business to volunteering to travel to following a passion like painting or writing.
Of course, this is your time and you should do what you want, but keep in mind that avoiding other people and activities can lead to depression and lethargy and soon you will feel “old” rather than active. The happiest retirees are those who regularly exercise, eat the right foods, use their brains and experience to help others and maintain strong friendships.
I know it is boring to read this all the time, but the happiest people in retirement are those who make a plan. Waking up the first day of retirement without any idea of what you want to do with the rest of your life is daunting. Make a plan, talk with your loved ones about your hopes and expectations and then just do it!