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Finding treasure after retirement

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Finding treasure after retirement

Drawing on her experience as a psychologist over 25 years, JUDY RAFFERTY has written a guide to retirement covering such topics as maintaining identity, finding meaning and purpose, retaining visibility in an ageist society, and navigating change. This month she launches her new column.

“Rewire rather than retire” is the motto of the Rewire group that meets with the goal of enhancing their individual retirements.

This small group met during the earlier days of COVID-19 when it was still possible for up to 10 people to gather.

Little did we know that these were heady times, and it would be our last meeting before group sizes would be restricted to two.

At the meeting, Mary asked the group a question: “You all know I am retiring in early April. Some of you have been retired for a few years and some of you have only just retired. How will the restrictions of COVID-19 impact on my retirement?”

The responses were interesting. The group seemed to split into two. Group A thought that the current situation would make her initiation into retirement harder, and Group B thought it would be easier.

Group A said they were sorry for Mary because the joy and excitement of retiring would be lost. The sense of release and relief she may have experienced once freed from work would be reduced to feeling stuck at home.

Plans involving travel, catching up with friends, group activities, and volunteering would all be ashes. Where could Mary do volunteer work now?

Group B had a different perspective. They said the COVID-19 social distancing measures t effectively meant a mass quasi retirement was taking place anyway.

Normal work structures and the social elements of work were quickly being removed.

Many people have lost their jobs, and others are now working from home – suddenly without their usual routine and colleagues. So, Mary will simply be doing what everyone else is doing and feeling in sync with everyone.

No prizes for guessing that the people in Group A had moved into retirement easily or were gleefully looking forward to it, whereas those in Group B had struggled with the onset of retirement.

“How do I know if I will struggle or not?” Mary queried. Many people ask this question, regardless of whether a pandemic is happening.

Many factors contribute to the ease or struggle of retiring. Money helps to smooth the path. But it is only one consideration.

Ken, a self-identified retirement struggler from Group B, reminded Mary that he was still in the early days of retirement.

He gave her this advice: “Whether you are about to retire or whether you have already, your preparedness is key. And in these days of lockdowns, are those preparations and expectations able to be adapted? For example, if you had expected to do voluntary work why not offer to Skype with some friends and share with them something that you can teach. I know you have great IT skills.”

This was great advice. Like most of us, Ken is now, suddenly, in a different and less fortunate financial position.

This means the need to think creatively and explore options flexibly is paramount.

As he lives alone, Ken also needs to ensure that he has daily social contact.

The Rewire group is planning to meet virtually for morning tea twice a week.

Mary is lucky. She can choose when she will retire. She might postpone it, on Group A’s advice, or step into it, which is Group B’s advice.

But she has prepared and continues to ask and learn from others.

Unfortunately, she cannot change or alter her changed financial situation, but while she waits and watches her focus is on learning how to do retirement well.

 Judy Rafferty is the author of Retirement Your Way, A Practical Guide to Knowing What You Want and How to Get It. Available at all good bookshops and online.

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