This Is a Golden Age for Retirees (And Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Otherwise)
I wonder what my grandmother’s retirement would have been, given a different set of circumstances.
She loved to travel and I know there were places in Europe and South America she always wanted to see. And after sharing a house with her sister for more than three decades (the two got on like territorial wolverines), I know she would have loved to live on her own in a condo.
Alas, my granny never really had the opportunity to write the story of her own retirement due to being an overly generous parent to her daughter (my mother).
You might recall that I wrote a column in December titled “Which of These 9 Retirement Personality Types Are You?” It was about a sort of Myers-Briggs test for the retirement set that divided retirees into nine categories: Tireless Mover, the Lost, Workhorse, the Lonely, Globetrotter, Reluctant Spender, Superhero, Never Retired, and Overly Generous.
Today I’d like to focus on the latter—the Overly Generous retiree. Now, it’s fine to be “generous.” It’s the “overly” qualifier that’s problematic because it means you’re not living the retirement you’re entitled to. Indeed, a recent Merrill Lynch survey reported that nearly 80% of parents say they’re sacrificing their own financial security to help adult children with expenses—a bothersome number, if only because of my personal history watching this unfold in my family’s life.
It’s one thing to help your kids on occasion; I do so with my own son. It’s altogether different to do so at the long-term expense of your own happiness. And a big part of the reason I say that is because today, more than at any other point in history, we have the opportunity to control the retirement we want to live.
There are so many analogies to use here. Retirement is a rebirth. Retirement is a blank canvas. Retirement is a do-over. However you see it, this new stage of life is the chance to slough off all of those shackles that chain us to the life we’ve lived in the run-up to this point. I’m not saying pre-retirement life is universally sour; it’s certainly not. Nevertheless, many people similar to my grandmother want retirement to be something other than the status quo.
My granny hit 65 in 1986, long before technology created the travel and portable earning opportunities that exist today. Had international housesitting websites existed back then, for instance, or had housesitting overseas been easy to access and arrange, I’m quite certain my granny would have found an apartment to housesit somewhere in Ireland—and never told her daughter where she went. (And I write that with a laugh. That’s how my grandmother was: adventurous and whimsical.)
I also think she would have been a good blogger. She wasn’t a great writer, but she had a funny bone that could make you cry with laughter and compelling stories to tell (like the time she got drunk on margaritas with a priest in Acapulco, which, it turns out, was great fuel for feuding with a cab driver trying to rip her off and the Mexican police that showed up).
My point is simply that if my granny had in the early days of her retirement the opportunities that are available to you and me today, I truly think she would have chosen to live a richer life. At the very least, she could have used more of her money on herself and her dreams.
Which I hope you do too, because it truly is easier than ever.
We live in a retirement age unlike any other, packed with possibilities, and it’s OK to give yourself permission to enjoy those possibilities…to go and live your life the way you wish to live it, unfettered by others and the demands they place on you. It’s OK to say, “These years belong to me and no one else.” It’s OK to earmark your money for your wants.
This is, after all, the story arc of your retirement and it’s entirely yours to fashion.
So go write the story you want to live…
Written by Jeff D. Opdyke