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Retirement – Letter to a friend

Our series on budgeting will continue next week. Today, however, I am writing a letter to a good friend who has just retired. I hope all recently-retired or about-to-retire benefit from it.

My dear Mallam,

Today, you have spent the last thirty-eight years at work in both the private and public sectors of our economy. You have been highly competent and a person of integrity in everything you did. The presence of all those from the organisation you last worked for and other walks of life, at both a formal and informal send-off, testifies to the person you have always been. In a society where people are wont to glorify, often undeservedly, the high for reasons best known to them, I am generally very hesitant to say much at such functions. Yet, I was excited to send the two-minute video that said exactly what I mean and still mean about you and your ways. You represent the best of our generation, holding on to the good traditions of our parents and grandparents while also being comfortable with the good of contemporary times. Unfortunately, the time constraint did not allow me to say a few things about retirement that I would have wanted. Now and here, I can…

Defining ‘Retirement’: I have often gotten communications from people stating that they read somewhere that they ‘should not retire’. My response is always that it all depends on what ‘retirement’ is defined as. If ‘retirement’ is defined as doing nothing or withdrawing from life, then we definitely should never ‘retire’! But we define retirement as the act of disengaging officially from work or business due to either statutory, health or other compelling, valid reasons. This means retirement does not preclude us, in any way, from going into other activities of our fancy for whatever legitimate reasons, for more years of our lives.

It is all in the mind: It is important to understand and internalise what retirement is. We should not just ‘accept it’ but be happy with and in it. The wise psychological processing of what retirement is the first success to be achieved.

It is another life stage: Retirement is the beginning of another stage in life with different challenges and opportunities but, otherwise, no different to the previous stages. If anything, by retirement we have seen most of the things that work and those that don’t. We have seen the wise and the foolish ways of this life. In retirement, we should leverage them for our good and the good of those around and after us.

Be grateful: You have every reason to be grateful for reaching this age and stage. A lot of people you know have died along the way, been sacked from their jobs for reasons no one can be proud of and with many attending to various health challenges (may God heal them).

Take care of your health: Depending on several factors, the health of many people tends to deteriorate as we age. Again depending on exactly what the health issues are, a sedentary retirement life might complicate issues. Hence, at this stage, regular exercises and medical check-ups should be taken seriously as your doctor may advise.

Take care of the finances: You will need to manage your finances very well. Managing finances is simple in principle and you should start their practice immediately. There are three rules: First, don’t do anything you cannot afford. The second is to cut down on even what you can afford for, I recommend, the first two years as you gain understanding and firm control of the structure of your retirement finances. This is not in any way to suggest that you live a miserly life! Rather, it just means your sense of prioritisation should be on high alert. Thirdly, do only the things you understand and are comfortable and happy doing.

Extend or create a purpose: One of the difficult things about retirement is the routines that get broken. You may not have an office to go to or a staff to engage with all day and often at night. You get yanked off the office email and official social media groups. Somehow those things we were doing at work, despite the difficulties, and even frustrations, helped in shaping and giving meaning to our lives. When we retire, therefore, a vacuum can be created. Consequently, we will need to extend the meaning or create entirely new ones that work for us. Find what appeals to you, is right and makes you happy. Create a routine around them taking the realities of your mind, body and finances into consideration.

Set your pace: In extending or setting your purpose, you have to be alert to the reality that we all age differently with varying financial states, health statuses, relationships and purposes. We need to consider all these in mapping out what would work for us.

Relationships and a retirement tribe: You have always been excellent at managing your work and social relationships. However, many of your working relationships, except for those that extended to the social, would likely fall away with time (and it is appropriate that you keep a decent distance). Hence, you will need to keep your social relationships and build new working relationships based on your retirement plans and activities. A retirement tribe comprising the right people with two-way support on meaning, purpose and activities is key to keeping you mentally and physically healthy.

Managing the spouse! In our careers, our work provides some physical gap that enhances most spousal relationships in ways that are not very apparent to the couple. When we retire, and depending on the couple and their activities, we may become ‘more available’ physically in ways that may suffocate, even if only mildly, the relationship. You will need to create just the right gap to make each of you readily available to the other without emotional suffocation!

 

I wish you more success in life!

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