Retirement: Desert or Garden?

Whether planning for it years ahead or slamming into the possibility through an unexpected layoff, retirement can be a scary concept for most of us. There are the obvious questions of wealth: specifically, will we have enough to maintain a comfortable lifestyle for our remaining years, and will we be able to survive unexpected financial challenges? But just as important are the less obvious issues, that if left un-addressed will confound our best efforts of retirement planning. These are the psychological and emotional aspects of retirement.

For instance, as Americans we are tempted to define who we are by what we do. If we are of this view, the very thought of giving up our jobs, our careers, or our businesses can shake us to the core of who we are, and what is our purpose. We may see retiring as quitting or giving up before we have accomplished all we set out to do. We might even feel that we were are no longer useful on the other side of 9-5.

So how should we address the problem of retirement? As with any problem, the first step toward solution is to define the problem. In the case of retirement we find there are as many definitions for it as there are people planning for it.

For some, as suggested above, it represents an end. For others it is anticipated as an escape, from jobs, bosses, or work they hate. There are those for whom retirement means being financially freed to engage in and pursue exciting and productive activities, jobs, or businesses that might have called them for years, while financial responsibilities, uncertainty, or doubt held them back. And finally there are those who work like everyone else, but would tell you they are already retired. They view retirement as a state of mind, blessed to work and produce at the very center of their talents and passion.

Those who view retirement through the lens of scarcity or consumption might liken it to crossing a desert where water (money) becomes the most vital of their scarce possessions. They leave behind plenty to venture into an arid expanse where the only water is that which they are able to carry. Sadly, while living in the plenty, folks like this neglect opportunities to cultivate and water what could become a rich fruit-producing garden in retirement rather than the arid desert.

Planning for retirement is about more than the question of having sufficient wealth to meet expected and unexpected cash flows. These aspects are vital, but without a good understanding of who we are, what we are passionate about, and how we see our purpose unfolding in our lives, we cannot effectively plan for a comfortable and fruitful retirement.

With a good understanding of yourself combined with planning, planting, and cultivation, you can have a rich and fruitful retirement, free of worry. And if you are already retired, and feel somewhat drier than you would like, give us a call. We love growing gardens in the desert.