Saturday, April 22, 2017


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Part Two

The Transition

“Any transition serious enough to alter your definition of self – will require not just small adjustments in your way of living and thinking, but a full-on metamorphosis.”
Martha Beck




Section 2
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Benjamin Franklin
‘You know that retirement is coming. It isn’t as though it just shows up one day and takes you by surprise, so you need to get ready for it!’
Batya Shevich,

It isn’t my goal to talk down to you in this section, dear reader; but I’m assuming that you’re capable of the same oversights that I myself am – in a way, I’m writing to a stubborn, childish part of my own mind.

It’s the part of the brain that can’t be woken with subtlety; it just needs a good slap.

Why Plan?

We all know the fable of The Ant and The Grasshopper; the ant diligently works all summer, storing food, whilst the grasshopper, under the illusion that summer will never end, fails to prepare.

The basic moral of this fable is as true today as it ever was: We cannot just pretend the summer will always last. We need to prepare for our winters, whatever that may represent for you.

We all know that! I hear you say.  Of course we do; this fable’s message is a very simple one. 

To know this message and to act upon it are quite separate things.

You can know something in theory, but fail to act with the seriousness it demands.

It is very difficult, necessary task to plan out our savings for retirement.

For one, we have to ask ourselves the question: Well, how long do I imagine myself living?

And what the fable fails to emphasise is that in real life there is no fixed date for ‘winter’– as we have said, increasingly, retirement is not voluntary; it can be thrust upon people, either overtly or perniciously - It sneaks up on us from our blind spots; sometimes it slips in when we are at our weakest.

And although you have to make a prediction for when you will stop working, and as we have said – unfortunately, this is not always under our control.

Nor, strictly speaking, is your health.

This issue goes beyond your salary: again and again in the research we encounter the terms planning along with financial literacy regarding those that have made it work. 

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about it is about learning to dance in the rain.”
Vivian Greene

The Question:
Are you going to do your best to allocate sufficient time to plan for your retirement?

The Dark Side

And yes there are real drawbacks or aging - These can’t be shied away from -

It hurts even to see the words, but there they are.
You will be impacted by these things. We all will.

In some ways, death might be one of the easiest amongst the list; at least, we feel that we have dealt with it. We know, and we have always known, that this can’t go on forever. And maybe your own mortality doesn’t upset you, but we are all mortal, and none of us immune from tragedy. Have we at least lived in a way, that if it were to end at any moment, we would have no regrets? 

Disease. Health will become a great concern, not only to you yourself, but to those around you.  You will feel burdened, mentally, emotionally, financially; but what’s more is that you may feel like you yourself are burdening others. 

Disability - That which you could once do easily may become difficult, or even impossible without assistance. You might become frail, and many aged people lose autonomy, and with it a sense of dignity is lost, as it needs to be.
Retirement is a disengagement from the world of work, but there are dangers that we may become isolated in other ways.

Generally, people’s health improves after retirement [7],  perhaps due to them then having more opportunity to invest in health.

But there are exceptions to this generalisation. To some unluckier individuals, transitioning into retirement can be harmful to one’s health. [10]

Even the most reasonable of us are prone to relying upon an unfortunate assumption, one that may have lay quietly in the background of our lives: that given extra time, we would spend it wisely.

And what can be more disappointing than to find that what we lack was never opportunity, but discipline.

Some researchers have noted an increased risk of heart disease in retirees - particularly in the first year. (Although this may be due to people with health problems retiring as a response to them.)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, in some cases, retirement can make people more vulnerable to stresses they felt at home - increasingly, grandparents are relied upon to look after grandchildren, especially with the baby-boomers experiencing a longer life expectancy that coincided with the economic recession. [8] To some, grandchildren bring a new meaning to life, but to some (particularly women [9]), this can provide a form of household strain and depression.

And a particularly pernicious type of depression: one where people feel they’re supposed to be happy, and out of social pressure they feel ashamed to spark up about it.

A recurring theme of this guide will be:
We have to be open. We have to be blunt. We have to be brave.

Curving Expectations


Throughout our life, we often, innocently enough, create opportunities to be disappointed, and retirement can be a particularly devastating one, because it is both a huge milestone, but has no real procedure to it: a wedding has an invitation, a birthday is a fixed date each year - but a retirement celebration, just as profound as these other occasions, isn’t so easy to pin down.  
Nobody knows what you’re supposed to do at this point - and you can’t expect them to.

Other people have an offensive habit of failing to read your mind.

Let’s say you had always expected a leaving party. Well, there wasn’t one – for example, you and another employee are quitting at a time that the (recently employed) manager feels puts the department in turmoil, so they don’t shell out for one. 

These things happen; others fail to give us the dignity we feel we have earned, because they haven’t put themselves in our shoes.

The Transition

Transitioning into retirement can be harmful or beneficial to one’s health. [11, 12, 13]

Large-scale longitudinal studies indicate that around 25% of retirees in the USA and around 10% of retirees in Germany experience a significant drop in health and well-being in the retirement transition.

In some cases, the retired feel 8-10 years younger in terms of their health. [12] Not surprisingly, those retirees whose jobs had high physical and psychological demands whilst failing to bring them fulfilment gain the most from retirement.

The Holes We Dig Ourselves

Perhaps you haven’t saved.
Perhaps it wasn’t possible to save, given your circumstances.
Perhaps time just slipped from your fingers. 
Or maybe you did everything right, but it didn’t matter this time:
Perhaps life wasn’t fair.

If you’re reading this, chances are you have lived through an economic recession. The sad fact is that even if you do everything right, things can still go wrong. We can’t prepare for all possibilities. We can’t cover all bases and blind-spots - any of us can be hit hard, seemingly at random.

If you are behind others, you have to make greater sacrifices. You will have to think outside of the box - and weigh up some options that may not make you so comfortable - but remember the severity of the alternatives.

In what ways can you use your existing assets to generate an income? Could you rent a room of your house?

Consider Semi-retirement - This needn’t necessarily be in the same capacity and location of your previous work. You could make use of your experience and time to work on a freelance basis.
( and are good starting places, although you might do better with local ads.)

“Things do not just happen; they are made to happen.”
John F. Kennedy

The Question:
How well will your future self feel dealing with things that have snowballed just because you didn’t want to think about them?
Case Study: Sandy 

Sandy worked within healthcare for all of her life, starting as a midwife, and despite looking after two children, she was able to study for a degree and become an occupational nurse – first, for the offices of a large telecommunications company (she knew that repetitive strain injury caused by improper seating and elbow position is avoidable with knowledge and foresight.)

Sandy’s husband had already retired and both children had grown up and started families of their own. Sandy would babysit on weekends until these babies grew into children.
Sandy herself was still in her late fifties when she decided to retire; at first, she stepped down to only part time (2-3 days a week, although they can be sprung on her.), but even then things at work began to upset, not only Sandy, but the whole team.

Firstly, a new manager took over, and from the start showed signs of incompetence. He was perhaps too strict on language, and began policing speech far more than seemed necessary to the staff, who now thought they were walking on eggshells. A certain beloved member of staff was let off, and in place, conveniently, came the manager’s cousin.

What upset Sandy though was that there was no retirement party for her: She had worked at that particular branch for two years at that point. The manager reasoned that she had handed in her notice at an inconvenient time - other members of the team had also quit weeks before.

Sandy invited these team members out to have their own party - out of their own pocket - but the wound remains.

The Question:
Imagine the disappointments we may face in these occasions: What would somebody who had real mastery of attitude do to roll with the punches of life?


This is the continuation of a weekly serialization of this new ebook on active retirement, by Wamala and Cooper, which book is available through for $0.99: 

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