Reality Check: Retirement Planning

Retirement planning is often associated with money. You already know that money isn’t everything, so let’s try looking at retirement planning from a choice theory perspective.

According to choice theory, we all have a set of basic needs: survival, love & belonging, power, freedom, and fun. For a satisfying life, we need some level of satisfaction of each of those needs.

Many retirement planning discussions focus on what is essentially the survival need—how to ensure enough money and a roof over your head. This column will focus on one of the other needs: love & belonging.

Life changes when you stop working! You don’t have to get up at a set time; there’s no boss ordering you around; you can take a nap whenever you want. Bliss, eh?

There are a few other things that change the moment you stop showing up at the old salt mine.

One change is that you stop having all those work-related conversations. Whether your job involved dealing with customers, co-workers, or bosses, many folks talk to a lot of people at work.

Suddenly, along with the end of the paycheques comes the end of all that human interaction. There’s no one to ask about your weekend or to commiserate about the hockey game. Whether you loved ‘em or thought you hated ‘em, those interactions abruptly disappear.

Even if you may have considered those conversations trivial, it was still interaction, and you may not realize that it was an important part of your life till it’s gone. If your love & belonging need was being satisfied by people at work, this sudden change can leave you with a pretty lonely feeling.

My suggestion: take preventive action. Plan for human interaction in your retirement life. And it may be helpful to be kind to your spouse or family by not expecting them to replace all of that human contact that you used to get at work!

How might you maintain connections when you are no longer at work? It could be by taking up a hobby that you can share with others, by getting involved in an organization, even by regularly hanging out with friends at the coffee shop.

Look up people who have the same odd interests that you have. Do you like double-decker busses, antler carving or DOS programming? Other people do too! Connect with people. Go to where people are. Say “Hi.” Smile.

Think about your friends and acquaintances. If you have made friends at work who are not just “work friends,” then make arrangements to stay connected.

Of course, you don’t have to wait till retirement to start building connections. Making friends is a skill that’s both learnable and worthwhile; it enriches your life and that of your friends.

What if you can’t find like-minded, compatible buddies? Connection and conversation with casual acquaintances is still better than waiting till you can find someone who completely agrees with you.

Next time I will look at planning to ensure that you also have power, freedom and fun in your post-retirement life.

What does a satisfying retirement look like to you?

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