There was a time, not so long ago, when retirement meant the same thing to everyone.
This is how it went:
1. You and your long-time employer had made mutual investments in your retirement fund and provided lifelong health insurance.
2. You were around 65.
3. You collected your retirement gift at a celebratory lunch or dinner thrown by your employer.
4. You stopped working entirely.
5. Everyone was supposed to retire; it was the social norm.
Welcome to the new world of retirement, which can be as varied and diverse as we ourselves are.
This is the new normal:
1. You continue to work, delaying retirement briefly or permanently.
2. You “retire” from your current position and/or profession and immediately go to work in another job, or in the business you started part-time eight years ago as part of your carefully-wrought retirement plan, or you start a new business venture from scratch.
3. You retire from your job to experiment with leisure time and discover a) it really suits you or b) you are bored to tears and are delighted to go back to work.
4. You and your partner retire at different times, often leading mismatched schedules (and perhaps lives) for a while.
And while life often throws us curves, life after 65 is a long, fat, hanging pitch that you can see coming for miles (well, actually, decades). Surprise-proofing retirement means doing the focused work of deciding what retirement will mean for you.
It means having in place:
1. a life plan which can be adapted regularly as you go along;
2. a financial plan that provides sufficient assets to fund the life planl
3. a clear exit strategy if you own a business;
4. a career plan if you are going to work; and
5. an agreement between both members of a couple about what their personal and collective preferences are for work, leisure activities, and physical location. Both partners don’t need to have the same preferences, but they do need to articulate, understand and respect each other’s likes and dislikes.
Accommodating preferences is very important.
Equally important is the ability to adapt well to surprises as they come along. And they will.
Think of it this way:
Success at this stage of our lives doesn’t mean that everything goes according to plan.
Success means that the plan and the planners can adapt to the new realities, whatever they are, and have found them to work well.