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Retirement: Make the most of your 10,000 days

Our regular columnist and Retirement Coach Dr Jon Glass discusses some myths and realities about your retirement years.

By Dr Jon Glass - 3 min 30 sec read

A little about Jon

Dr Jon Glass runs retirement coaching business 64PLUS (The opinions expressed are those of Dr Jon Glass and 64Plus. Russell Investments does not endorse, and is not accountable for, any views expressed by Dr Jon Glass or 64Plus.) He coaches individuals to a clearer understanding of the issues they will face post work. He has studied counselling and coaching at The Australian College of Applied Psychology and The Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership.

Over the last five years, I have coached people from all walks of life about how to enjoy a great retirement. I can say this: people often have some funny ideas about what retirement is about, and how to approach it.  

Of course, on the face of it, retirement is easy! You stop work on Friday after four decades of hard work and by Monday you have a brilliant new life without stress—what could be simpler?  

But isn’t there something a bit outmoded about this picture? Perhaps we've all watched too many ‘happy ever after’ movies. Plot spoiler alert: retirement is NOT that simple! In my work, I help people explore the meaning of retirement in more depth, excluding its financial aspects.  

There are many ways in which retirement can unfold. For some people, it's planned and voluntary. But for others it happens to them (such as they get retrenched or their company goes bankrupt). Other people transition from full-time work to part-time work to retirement, while others never retire and keep working until the final toll of the bell.  

Think about the happy days 

Here is a simple piece of arithmetic to help frame your retirement. 

In most cases, retirement takes place at a point in time followed by approximately 10,000 days of retired life. That is a big number! If you think of 10,000 days as an opportunity to sit in a deck chair and gaze out to sea, then you may be confusing retirement with a long holiday. 

The first few years of retirement are often referred to as ‘the honeymoon period’ during which all those jobs you’ve been putting off for years can be completed. However, the honeymoon period always ends, then the real work of retirement begins. This is the phase many people find very difficult, as they ask themselves, “What will I do now?” 

One approach is to think of those 10,000 days as a gift of time to you. Don’t fear the 10,000 days because you might be bored. No! Exploit them as an opportunity to do amazing things for yourself, your family and friends, or your community. 

Next, ponder the question: Are there any benchmarks for a quality retired life? Well, yes. There is the so-called 3G approach to retirement: Golf, Gardening and Grandparenting. Another example is that cruise ships are always advertising for passengers. There's nothing wrong with either of these approaches, but they may not fit your needs and wants. This leads to the realisation that you need to do some work to make this phase of your life truly enjoyable. One way to think of retirement is this: When you stop living at work and start working at living.  

Busy is not always meaningful (BINAM) 

Many retirees say that they are even busier now than when they worked. Isn’t that a good thing? Indeed, it may be both true and good. But using BINAM we can analyse further. For example, you could watch Netflix all day and night. That will keep you busy by filling out your days, but will that satisfy your needs and wants? Probably not. A more effective question is: How can ‘being busy’ reflect your personal needs and wants? 

There is no simple answer. That’s also a good thing, as your response will improve as you put more thought into answering the question. Let me tease you with another question. Imagine you have a business card in retirement, and you want to put three words under your name to describe your identity in retirement. Do you like ‘A retired person’? If not, then you have taken another step on the path to connecting your needs and wants to your brilliant retirement. What does that path look like? 

The first part is all about preparation for retirement, which you can start before you retire. This way you reduce the risk of wasting the first precious years of retirement, either in a state of confusion about what to do or being ‘busy’ to keep from thinking about ‘what’s next’.  

Expect the unexpected 

Retirement is an amazing and productive part of later life, but perhaps not in the way you expect. I believe it can be even better than it's cracked up to be.  

In articles to come, I’ll explore the concept of retirement in more depth, helping you arrive at an outline of your own path. Themes will include: 

  • What are the four Ms of retirement? (Missing, Measuring, Meaning, Mastery) 
  • Boredom and its consequences 
  • Family and retirement 

Once you get into thinking more about your retirement, you may even see the need to hire a retirement coach! Just as you can prepare for retirement, a coach can help you harness your needs and wants to a fulfilling and rewarding 10,000 days. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the views and opinions of Russell Investments.

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