During the late 1990s hi-tech boom when I ran my own law practice, I had a client who was the CEO (Big Shmo) of a publicly traded company. The company was successful and Big Shmo was handsomely rewarded through a combination of salary and capital gains made through cashing in stock options.
So there was Big Shmo, a guy in his early forties, self-made son of an immigrant, married with one child, rich enough to gain entry to the top 1%. Yet, he continued working 10-12 hour days, 6 days / week.
‘Why not retire?’ I asked him.
Big Shmo smiled and waved away my question.
‘Listen’, he said, ‘I get what you’re saying. I’ve amassed a small fortune so why should I continue working? You want to know why? Because for me, working is not about the money, it’s not about earning more. I don’t need more. In fact, I don’t need most of what I have. But what I need is the challenge! I love building the business, the competition, working with people, giving it everything I have. That’s what matters for me. Besides, with what I do everyday, I don’t even consider it work.’
It took me a few moments to realize what Big Shmo meant by ‘I don’t even consider it work’.
What he meant was that he lived in a state of Flow.
Chewy Bit. Flow refers to an energized focus allowing for total involvement in the process of activity to the best of your ability.
When you live in Flow, you understand that life is a process lived on a continuum; it is a direction not a destination that involves stopping and starting.
I learned a lot about living in Flow from Big Shmo. And I’m certain that his perspective on life played no small part in leading him to achieve balance and financial freedom.
Getting The Party Started?
One day you’re hunkered down in your cubicle, walled office, or on a kitchen stool plugging away at work earning your keep. The next day, a day you planned for, dreamed of, for a decade or two or three, you’re free. Retired. You have enough dough to make it through the rest of your life. WHOO HOO! You did it. Good for you. Now, looking forward … what’s next?
If you’re like most people planning for retirement, you focused on hitting the magic number that would bring you to this day. Then … it happens! And you celebrate for a day, a week, a month, maybe more. But eventually you stop and reflect and realize that, uh oh, you didn’t give anywhere near as much thought to planning what life would be like after you closed up shop.
Adjusting To The Retirement Stage
If you thought of retirement as a ‘stop work … start the rest of my life event’, you’ll experience a period (how long it lasts is up to you) of significant emotional and psychological adjustment.
Because retirement is a HUGE life event! You have just abandoned your sense of purpose, removed your self from a social group, relinquished your calling card, all of which tends to bring about sadness stemming from a sense of loss, isolation, and vulnerability to suffering from fear of the unknown.
And when you experience this adjustment, it’s not uncommon to ask yourself:
- Who am I?
- What’s my identity?
- What do I contribute? Am I useful for anything?
- Will I lose touch with my workplace friends?
- Will my other friends still like me, respect me, find me interesting?
- What about my spouse? Will she/he want to be with me?
Dark Side of Retirement
The truly unfortunate folks fall into depression or debilitating addiction. The worst of it: suicide rates are highest for those over age 65, moreso men than women. The thinking being that men more often have their identity wrapped up in their career; occupation being the primary source of self-image, a marker for measuring your self, for finding a place for your self, a sense of belonging.
Not so for women. Generally speaking, women tend to engage in fulfilling activities outside of their career, throughout their life, intuitively gravitating toward a life of Flow.
Bright Side of Retirement
For many others, retirement is a beautiful blank slate. An opportunity to design your life any which way you like: pursuing new activities and adventures, forging new or deeper connections with friends and loved ones, engaging in long delayed dreams.
Resetting The Dial
Here are a few tips for finding your Balance and getting into Flow:
- Stay socially connected. We are social animals. We need other people.
- Contribute to life. We feel good about our self when we are helping others.
- Volunteer. Get involved in your community. Join a club. Take a class.
- Make plans, but be chilled about your plans. Be flexible. Leave time to just “be”, daydream, meditate, go for ice cream, ride a bicycle, read a book for fun.
- Stay active. Be physical. Keep the body healthy as well as the mind. Body, mind, spirit, it’s all connected.
- Be kind to your self. Be patient. Accept that your life will change and know that you will adjust on your own schedule.
Find Your Flow, Find Your Wealth
Regardless of whether you experience fear or excitement or both post-retirement, if you don’t find your Flow then the stage of life known as retirement will not be the party you dreamed about, no matter how much money you have.