The Myths and Truths of Retirement

By Joanne Wiley

Myths of retirement

Here are the most common thoughts that we have heard as we have talked with people who are either looking at retirement or already retired. These misconceptions shape our thinking, and impact how we see ourselves living out this time of life called retirement. They create not the Golden Years, but the Grey Years.

1."True success is retiring to do nothing. Being successful means accumulating enough so you have to do nothing."

2."At 65 I'm no longer capable of working. I'm too old."

3."When I retire, I should start winding down. Take it easy"

4."I want to retire while I am still healthy so I can stay healthy."

Truths about retirement

1.In the 1930's Roosevelt created Social Security to provide a pension workers 65 and older. This was to create openings for younger workers by removing seniors from the work force during the Depression when there were large numbers unemployed.

It was not created from the basis that 65 year olds and older were unable to work. We need the creativity of older people even more today, creativity creates jobs. Older people need to stay in the work world.

2.Generally, we are healthier than ever have been before. A recent cover of AARP, a magazine for people over 50, announced: "Sixty is the new Thirty." Immunizations, medications, health knowledge and education, have made a huge difference.

3.Our longevity has increased. A 65 yr old man can expect to live until age 82, while a 65 yr old woman can expect to live until age 85. If you are in your 40s, and follow the traditional model of retirement, you will likely be retired a minimum of one quarter of your life.

Those living to a hundred have increased. The 1960 census listed about 3000 centenarians. Today, centenarians are estimated at 70,000 and some are predicting 4.2 million by the middle of the century. If you are 50, you could be one of the 4.2 million!

4.Winding down leads to poor health. People who study aging describe the Use it or Lose it phenomenon. We keep our health by using it, we need to be active physically, mentally, emotionally or we will wind down. Studies have shown 90 year olds being capable of increasing muscle mass and tone moving from wheelchairs to being independent again.

And the good news is: It is never too late to start!! Physically, mentally, emotionally, we have the capacity to grow at any age.

George Bernard Shaw, an Irish dramatist, won the Nobel Prize for Literature at 69. He wrote his last play at 93.

Grandma Moses, renowned folk artist, started painting at 78 because her fingers were too stiff to continue with embroidery.

Pablo Picasso's 90th birthday was celebrated with an exhibition at the Louvre in 1971- the first time a living artist had ever shown there.

5.AARP reports that 80% of boomers plan to work during retirement. Hurray, people are recognizing that we have to be active with a degree of risk to be healthy and stay healthy.

People who have had a great deal of stress at work have a shock when they retire. It is like taking a fine sports car, like a Ferrari and sitting it in a parking lot, in park, with a weight on the gas pedal so that it revs without a load. Soon it self-destructs. So do we.

An example: This spring we met Don, a retired IBM executive who retired 4 years ago. Don handles his retirement by consulting part time and traveling in a motor coach with his wife, Sue. Don shared that 2/3 of his peers died within 2 years of their retirement.

Alan, another retiree described how three of them retired the same day, and his 2 colleagues cleaned out their desks and sat there by their phone hoping someone would call and cancel their retirement. Both had heart attacks within 6 months of retiring. Alan chose to part time consult and travel.

For many men, it was not the work that killed them but the emptiness of retirement. Golfing, fishing and visiting children are not enough.

6.Many retirees are looking for personal growth, activity, purpose. In 2000, the University of Arizona conducted a study of what baby boomers wanted in housing.

Large numbers had moved away from the retirement community concept to integrated communities involving families, seniors together. They wanted an active lifestyle and a sense of community, where they could give to others, volunteering and sharing.

7.Connecting to what makes you passionate and purposeful brings the greatest degree of joy, health and life satisfaction.

Don, when an airline pilot in his 50's was grounded. "I was lost, devastated. That incident helped me to see that I needed a purpose in retirement too," he stated. He loved people, and on his holidays often walked around looking at houses. He combined the two by selling real estate. He has been successful too, and enjoys mentoring new real estate agents.

About the Author

Joanne Wiley: co-owner of Full Life Seminars with her husband Hugh, also seminar leader and writer discussing how to find passion and purpose in your life at any stage, but especially at that unique time known as retirement. Find more information at their website