Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What does the rest of your life look like?

Almost two years ago, when Bill and I first considered life after 9-5, we engaged the magical power of The Google in a search for 'how to' resources. We stumbled upon the  North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement (NCCCR) at UNC in Asheville and signed up for a weekend seminar.
Do you see an oddly coincidental theme here? Isn't it uncanny how all our roads seem to lead to Asheville? Sometimes you just have to accept what's right in front of your face.
The seminar is called Paths to Creative Retirement and is available twice a year. We attended in the spring of 2010.

NCCCR at UNC Asheville

What we hoped to find was a template for retirement, a step-by-step guide that would help us avoid the pitfalls. Face it, we're over-achieving baby boomers, and we wanted to do this thing right.

That's not exactly what we got.

We were looking at retirement as a cut-and-dried process, something you might plug into project planning software (that would be my influence) and come out with a plan, complete with dependencies, gateways and milestones.

The seminar was more introspective, and helped us understand how each of us uniquely hope to spend the rest of our lives and what kind of roadblocks we might face. It sounds corny, even self-evident, but after the years many of us devote to career-building, money-making and child-raising, what's important when that's stripped away isn't always obvious.

Here were some take-aways for me:
  • Finances were not discussed in depth. This actually made sense since attendee demographics covered a broad range from those who will (or are) reliant on Social Security for income to some who were without a financial care in the world.
  • Despite the financial disparity, we shared much, and it underscored for me the commonality of the human condition. A sense of security, well-being and life-purpose are universal needs, regardless of career achievements, awards and degrees.
  • Of the couples that attended, many were dragged there unwillingly. They either thought the seminar was a waste of time (and money) or didn't want to deal with the issue of retirement. (Retirement = getting old = dying). By the end of the weekend, most had changed their minds.
  • Retirement isn't the end of anything - it's the beginning of a new adventure, akin to graduating from college, getting married or starting that new job.
  • We began relationships with people who are interesting, curious about life and fun. We look forward to continuing those friendships.
Of note: one seminar attendee, Elizabeth Pope, was a free-lance writer for the New York Times, and she subsequently published an article describing the experience, Boot Camp for the Retired or Soon to Be. It's an accurate article that cites some valuable resources, and profiles one of our new friends, Dorothy Butcher. Read and enjoy.

In an earlier post, I listed things that are important to me and Bill as we plan the location for our next stage. Most of this came from discussions sparked by that weekend in Asheville.

You might say (and I will!) that understanding your passions and incorporating them into your life shouldn't be postponed as some sort of bucket list.  This isn't a luxury or an indulgence. If we spent more time along the way crafting the life we need and want, maybe major changes wouldn't be so stressful.

Given the current financial climate, I know many folks are in survival mode, living from one paycheck to the next and hoping that the next crisis isn't just around the corner.

That's doesn't preclude dreaming, planning and setting goals. I believe if it's important to you, and you can envision it, you can usually make it happen.

What does the rest of your life look like?

1 comment:

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