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Secrets of Success

A Difficult Pursuit

A couple of months ago I was having lunch with a friend and colleague. We were talking about stuff–work, family etc.

At one point the conversation turned to retirement – a topic on the minds of many older “baby boomers.” “Don’t you have to have a job first in order to retire?” I asked my friend.

I explained that I hadn’t “worked” in over thirty years (unless you count things like cleaning out my basement), so I didn’t know exactly how the word applied to me. Though I have run my consulting business for almost three decades, I simply don’t think of my week day as a work day.

I talk to fascinating people with interesting problems. I help make a difference in their lives. And I get paid to boot. Hardly work. More like a joy and a privilege.

I am well aware that other people’s lives are not my life. Millions of people are going to retire. Let’s assume you plan on being one of them some day.

There is increasing evidence that this will not look like your parents’ or grandparents’ retirement.

Nevertheless, it’s never too early to start asking some important questions.

Are You Retiring from Something or to Something?

The word “retire” is an interesting word. In the 19th century, it was often used as a “moving toward verb” as in “retire to the parlor” or “retire to the bed chamber.” In the 20th century, it became more of a “moving away from verb” as in “retire from my job.”

Thinking about retirement as moving away from or moving toward something, can significantly affect the experience.

The past few years I have worked with numbers of professionals in their late 40s and early 50s who have “cashed out.” They have been fortunate enough to have enough money that they can live out the rest of their lives on the wealth they have accumulated. They leave their jobs and businesses excited about the next chapter of their lives.

At least they’re excited for a while. For six months to two years, they do anything and everything they had ever wanted to but didn’t have the time to do. They rest, they travel, they volunteer. Then after they have played and volunteered themselves “to death,” they come and see me.

Their standard complaint is that they feel a lack of purpose or meaning in their lives. In spite of the financial comfort they have, many of them end up going back to some type of work. Though they no longer need the money, they miss the purpose and fulfillment work gave them.

Their problem was that they had retired from something but not to something.

Will Your Life Get Out of Balance?

Just as the meaning of “retirement” has changed, so has the meaning of “work.”

Once upon a time liking what you did was not really an issue. The thought was “Ya gotta eat so ya gotta do what ya gotta do. Why do you think they call it ‘work’?”

No more. For many, liking what they do is critical. Countless people will simply leave a job if they find they are unhappy. Work has become an important part of people’s lives not only for the material benefits but also for the psychic rewards.

Most of us grow up in a world of extremes. From ages six to twenty-two we spend a disproportionate amount of time learning. Not much work and some time for play.

The next forty years we shift the balance. Learning and playing take a back seat to working.

The last transition focuses on play. Learning may return but work is assumed to be a thing of the past.

While this scenario works for many, it doesn’t work for many more.

That being the case, “the new retirement” will often hold a work component. Not only will this help individuals supplement their savings, it will also allow them to maintain a bit of the balance with the “play” part of retirement.

If all else fails might you choose to follow the example of Buster Martin?

Buster Martin is not exactly a household name. You may never have heard of him. Four years ago he tried retiring from his plumbing job. It didn’t work for Buster. He missed working, being busy. So two years later he went back to work. Recently, he’s begun to spend more time on one of his interests–running. He recently completed the London Marathon. “That’s not all that unusual,” you might say. “Lot’s of people pursue athletic endeavors in their later years.

Buster is a tad different. You see he was 97 when he retired, 99 when he returned to work and on April 13, 2008 he completed the marathon at 101 years of age.

Buster decided to simply stay fully engaged in all facets of his life.

So how will your golden years look? Will you retire to a life of leisure? Retire to a combination of working, learning and playing? Simply make it up as you go along? What ever you choose, choose carefully. Be open to change when the need arises.

As the English poet William Cowper observed -“A life of ease is a difficult pursuit.”

CTS Consulting, Inc

3126 Berkshire Road

Baltimore, Maryland 21214

phone 410-444-5857

cell 443-286-2488