Here’s why graduating from full-time work should be viewed as a very desirable change.
Welcome back to Year 2 of blog posts!
When I was the in UK this summer, Dr Reg Hinkley, an experienced trustee of a number of UK pension schemes, large and small (they’re called schemes in the UK, plans elsewhere), volunteered to help review the draft of the book on which this website is based. In addition to many other useful comments, he said: “I would strongly support the sense of retirement as a positive phase of life in its own right, rather than ‘running down’ after one’s career, and before one needs more personal support.” This emphasizes that the individual’s life situation is the true heart of our focus, rather than just the financial issues involved, and that this time of life is potentially our peak, not a downhill slope.
Wise words, and perfect for starting Year 2. We finished the first year with a big focus on Posts #46-51, all dealing with the numbers. Let’s focus for the next little while on happiness and psychology, and assistance for transitioning into and fully enjoying this peak time of life.
Three cheers for life after full-time work!
Hip-hip … freedom! Hip-hip … time! Hip-hip … happiness!
Yes, LAFTWO (my acronym for life after full-time work: that suggests that I can call it Life Two) is worth celebrating. It’s potentially the most positive phase of life, the most enjoyable, the most rewarding.
Freedom? You can argue that freedom is never total, but we wouldn’t want it to be. It’s the limits in a civilized society that actually give us greater freedom to pursue what we want to do. Even libertarians stop at red lights, because they know that without traffic rules there would be chaos, and no scope to move forward with confidence.
Life Two reduces our obligations. It’s in that sense that it gives us increased freedom. We ought to take advantage of the increased freedom. We’ve all dreamed of things we’d like to do. Life Two gives us the chance.
Time? We value it because of its scarcity while we’re working. That’s why, during our working careers, we look forward to weekends: fewer work obligations, more time for ourselves. Vacations are even better than weekends: quite simply, they’re longer. And if you’ve been lucky enough to work in an environment that offers sabbaticals (as I was), that’s best of all. People return from sabbaticals with stories of fulfillment, not just those who traveled or did something quite different from the daily routine of their lives; even those who decided to spend their time at home, relaxing or undertaking a project, got satisfaction from finally being able to devote themselves to something they’d put off for lack of time.
Life Two increases the amount of time at our disposal.
Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Too much freedom, too much time? Yes, of course it’s possible, in a sense. Scarcity is one reason why we rate freedom and time so highly.
But also, we may not want more freedom and time. We may be so comfortable in our work routine that we don’t want it to change. It may be (and for many, it really is) scary to contemplate any change. For many people, “retirement” is something that happens to them, or is done to them, and it takes them aback, it surprises and shocks them. Seeing it happen to someone else should be a wake-up call to us.
We should be ready for Life Two, just as we are for a vacation. We invariably see the positive side of vacations, and anticipate them eagerly, even if we enjoy our work. It should be the same with Life Two. We plan what we want to do on vacation. It should be the same with Life Two.
Among the many aspects I’ll deal with in the next series of posts, I’ll offer guidance on how to think about the future, about who you are, about what you’ll do, about the transition that most people go through, about how to make the most of Life Two.
Finances are always important. Money is one of two resources we have at our disposal, to convert into things that make us happy. That’s why we accumulate it gradually during our working life, to be able to draw on it and convert it to freedom from work obligations. This is when we enjoy the reward for our financial sacrifices earlier in life.
The other spendable resource is, of course, time itself. We don’t accumulate it; exactly the reverse – it’s there, and it gradually expires, whether or not we use it – so it makes sense to use it while we have it.
Together, money and time are the ingredients for happiness – if we spend them well. So I’ll include a post on how to spend time and money to enhance happiness.
Happiness? Yes, it’s the ultimate goal on this earth. Aristotle reminds us that we choose happiness for its own sake and never as a means to something else; indeed, other things are important because they bring us happiness. The fortunate thing is that our brain chemistry works automatically to make us happiest in this time of life (as you’ll remember, of course, from Post #3, http://donezra.com/theres-a-connection-between-happiness-and-age/), so we enter this chapter with a built-in advantage.
I’m thinking of new posts every second week from now on. For the remainder of this year, I’m thinking of descriptions and stories for the most part, and then, in the new year, practical approaches to the transition and the new you and the new activities.
Put it all together: freedom, time, happiness. This is the BEST of life, for which the rest was made.
I have written about retirement planning before and some of that material also relates to topics or issues that are being discussed here. Where relevant I draw on material from three sources: The Retirement Plan Solution (co-authored with Bob Collie and Matt Smith, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009), my foreword to Someday Rich (by Timothy Noonan and Matt Smith, also published by Wiley, 2012), and my occasional column The Art of Investment in the FT Money supplement of The Financial Times, published in the UK. I am grateful to the other authors and to The Financial Times for permission to use the material here.