For Many Men Retirement Does Not Go Well

Many men retire and quickly begin to enjoy a happy, healthy retirement. But unfortunately, for many men retirement is anything but a happy, healthy experience. In fact, some researchers believe that for these men, leaving the workplace may be a health hazard.

This is because for these men, involvement in creative, valued, satisfying employment is a significant contributor to good physical and mental health. It is a masculinity thing. And their masculinity takes a significant hit when life after retirement does not live up to its promise.

There has been much research on this topic and it has been going on for fifty plus years. But the results have not been conclusive. I believe the simple reason for the lack of overwhelming support for the research is that many men are affected negatively, but many others are not. Clearly some men look forward to retirementFor them work was over-rated and was never something they actually enjoyed. It was unfulfilling. These men look forward to retirement as a time of freedom and activity. For this group work was never tied to their masculinity and feelings of self esteem.

For many men, however, researchers say there is strong evidence that most of their self identity comes from paid employment. And a self identity based on productive and valued work can be good for one’s health. Thus, the positive aspects of self identity based upon fulfilling work need to be encouraged as part of a healthy life. But conversely, there can be a health risk and danger when an individual over-identifies with work.

So employment confers many health benefits, not the least of which is a steady income. Obviously employment does not guarantee affluence, but on the other hand, the relationship between poverty and poor health is well documented. Other potential health benefits provided by work include:

  1. being in control of one’s life
  2. feelings of being productive
  3. being a place where men make friends
  4. doing something which is valued by others, and
  5. a sense of routine.

As a result, retirement can produce a crisis for some men when this source of self-identity is lost. And in fact, some research suggests that work is actually protection against premature death.

The health risks for these men resulting from retirement; in addition to the loss of income, include:

  1. a negative impact on social well-being
  2. feelings of isolation
  3. difficulty maintaining friendships from work
  4. negative affects when positive expectations of retirement are not met.

As indicated earlier, while these feelings affect large numbers of men in retirement, many men do enjoy happy, healthy retirements. Often social/economic status influences positively retired men’s health. It can be noted that while money cannot buy happiness, it is a resource that can lead to good health in retirement. More wealth can give men the ability to overcome all of the negatives affecting those struggling in retirement.

In conclusion, how well men do in retirement varies greatly. But clearly those whose self identity was based largely on their work can be the ones with the greatest struggle.

On a personal note……….

When I began this blog thirteen months ago, I indicated that I had not made a lot of plans for my retirement, but that I very much wished to “do retirement well”. It was, and is, my hope that my reading and writing on the subject would be a catalyst in helping me to retire successfully. This particular post helps me to understand myself. I relate with the men whose identity was closely tied to their work. And in leaving the workplace I have had many of the struggles described above. In fact, I’m thinking I may have been dealing with depression at times since April 9, 2015, my retirement date.

I’ll need to successfully get past these feelings if I’m to do retirement well and enjoy a Lemonade Retirement! So I plan to continue working on my retirement and writing this blog as well. It’s been helpful to me,…..and I hope at least a few others.

Retirement Surprises: Most Good, Others Not So Much, Part III

Recently the Wall Street Journal polled their readers regarding their biggest retirement surprises. The responses were varied and expressed more joy than pain, and more satisfaction than frustration. In Parts I and II of this series I recounted a number of the good surprises. In the final post of the series I want to share some of the bad surprises.

BAD SURPRISES

Boomer Attitudes, top concerns as we approach our retirement
  • Most common among the bad surprises experienced by the retirees was that it was painful leaving work. And in fact, more so than expected. This idea was expressed by many and in many different ways. Several expressed missing being a part of a team at work. One expressed it this way. “It was very surprising to encounter the depth of the loss of not being part of a team doing important work.”
    Others expressed the fact that their self value and identity was entirely driven by their position. “I used to define myself by my title. I had flashy business cards, a company car, and a generous expense account. Without these, I didn’t know who I was. I felt naked.” I believe this woman from California describes beautifully what many of us felt upon leaving our careers behind.
  • One simply said that his biggest surprise was the challenge of figuring out “the Second Act.”
  • Some missed the pay aspect of work once they had retired. One in particular struck me. He filled his retired life with time with grandchildren, church activities, exercise, academic studies, reading, and walks on the beach. As perfect a picture as this is, he still really misses being paid for work.
    On this same subject, one indicated that finding a rewarding post-retirement occupation had been problematic. He expressed surprise that in spite of his very impressive resume and a somewhat aggressive search for an interesting position, there was no interest shown by the companies he approached. He assumed his age (70) was the main obstacle preventing at least some interviews.
  • Some responded that their biggest surprise in retirement was mortality. They went on to say that they had looked forward to many wonderful retirement years with their spouse. Unfortunately, however, one spouse or the other passed away far sooner than expected. One person’s advice as a result was: do not wait until retirement to enjoy life.  How sad and tragic that would be!
  • One person whose health surprisingly began to slip early in retirement advised as follows. Appreciate that every day you are probably as healthy as you will ever again be.
  • The bad surprise faced by many had to do with the cost of living. Many have been caught off guard and surprised. Different expense categories were cited. Some mentioned the cost of healthcare, more specifically the cost of medicare premiums for Part B, D, and F. Premiums in many cases are increasing by 20% or more annually. Some indicated that household expenses in general were quite a bit higher than expected.
    One respondent claimed that his living expenses in retirement were tracking at 100% of his pre-retirement expenses. For most this would be entirely unsustainable. He listed his expenses that were higher than expected: healthcare, travel, recreation, vehicle expenses, and fuel and energy. In this same vein, another individual suggested adding 10% to any expense budget you prepare because there will surely be expenses you underestimate.
  •  “Negative Dan” from Portland, Oregon reported that he has become a charter member of the over-the-hill club. He is now unattached to the business world, a retiree with a gold whatchamacallit signifying his long-term service. In his words, “sadly (he) spends his days striving to create the perception that he still has intrinsic value.” Hopefully there are only a scant few who share his view.

On a lighter note, Arthur believed that in retirement he would play golf all the time. But upon retirement he came to realize that he used to play golf to reduce the stress from work. But now in retirement he finds golf to be stressful in and of itself.

In conclusion, the content for these last three posts came from the Wall Street Journal of February 10, 2017 – “Readers’ Biggest Retirement Surprises.” Clearly for most the biggest surprises they experienced in retirement were positive ones. There are the wonderful gifts of friends and family, and better yet, the time to enjoy them. In addition there is time to focus on exercise and health, travel, and new activities or causes. For most, all of this make retirement a precious gift… even in trying times!

 

“Friendships”- The Secret Sauce to a Happy, Healthy Retirement!

Here is some attention grabbing news……emerging research indicates that social engagement plays a significant role in overall well being, self-esteem, and even longevity!

More specifically, research further shows that active engagement with other people actually improves your health. It also lowers the risk of high blood pressure, depression, cardiovascular disease and dementia.

And finally, the conclusion of all of this research is that people who are socially active are 50% less likely to die prematurely! Interesting though, researchers are nor sure why this is true. Why are having friends associated with better health?

It may be because social activity often begets physical activity. And physical activity has many positive effects on your health. In addition, socialization is a mood lifter, and happiness is thought to be linked to good health.

Thus, socialization is a requirement for a Lemonade Retirement, not an option. And this is because, sadly, the opposite is also true. Isolation contributes to poor health in the same way as smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. Also a lack of socialization is connected to decreasing cognitive function, declining physical function and decreased immune function.

I don’t doubt that ALL of this is true, after all it is backed up by a substantial amount of recent research. But isn’t it very surprising that friendships and socialization can have such an effect on the physical functioning of our bodies and our longevity?

So what’s the problem? This should be easy. Countless millions of us are already there. We can just “check this box” and move on. But unfortunately there are also millions of Baby Boomers who live isolated or somewhat isolated lives.

For these seniors, their friendships and socialization have decreased significantly in their later years. This happens for many reasons. It can be due to drifting apart, relocation, health issues, death, or simply an inability to get out of the house.

For this group, making the lifestyle changes necessary to add socialization back into their lives may be difficult. Social skills have gotten rusty. And introverts may find it particularly difficult to make these changes. Some introverts find it easier to use social media and connect online. And this is acceptable, I read. However, combining socializing with a physical or mental activity has far more health benefits, particularly when done person to person.

For those interested in taking action to increase their friendships and socialization, following are ideas for consideration:

  1. Volunteering.
  2. Faith-based activities.
  3. A part-time job for 8-16 hours per week.
  4. Investigate the local senior center.
  5. Join a fitness center and commit to using it two to three times a week.
  6. Take senior oriented continuing education courses at a nearby high school or college.
  7. Reconnect with former classmates and other former friends.
  8. Accept all invitations.
  9. Invite a neighbor for lunch or just coffee.
  10. Start or join a book club in your neighborhood.
Author Mike Duvall reconnecting with one of his best high school friends, Steve Earle.

 

Since this is so important to our health and longevity, hopefully those needing to add socialization to their lives will find at least one appealing option on the list above. If this applies to you, get serious and get started. And remember, if you have your health, you have everything!

 

Retirement Living to the Max: Friends and Travel – Part 3

Monday with Steve and Anne on Neebish Island was highlighted by a boat ride in Steve’s power boat halfway around the island to the Kozy Korner in Barbeau for lunch. The Kozy Korner is almost next door to the ferry crossing, which gets you onto the island. On our return trip, we completed our clockwise circle around the island. It’s always fun to get a view of your surroundings and all of the cottages from the water.

After another great dinner we settled in for a serious four-handed game of cards…if  “Oh Hell” can be serious. Steve and I are both still very competitive, so there was a lot of banter along the way. He won the game.

sault-sainte-marie-soo-locks-2Tuesday, our last day, was dominated by a trip to the Soo Locks, which are about a half hour away in Sault Sainte Marie, a city that sits half in the U.S. and a half in Canada. The lock system is necessitateddec21-j-soolocks by the fact that Lake Superior sits 21′ higher than the St. Mary’s river. Thus vessels upbound travel into the lock, and once in, water is let into the lock, raising the vessel by the 21′. The vessel can then exit the lock into Lake Superior. Tourists are afforded many terrific locations to get a great view of this happening.

 

After taking all of this in ourselves, our appetites were piqued for lunch. The West Pier Drive-In is a knock-off of a 1950’s-’60’s- style drive-in restaurant, and sits on the waterfront in Sault Saint Marie. Remember when waitresses brought your order to your car along with a tray which mounted on the driver’s side door? Those eating their meals in their cars get a closeup view of the ships as they exit the locks. We chose the interior of the restaurant to view the busy staff as they prepared the orders in a wide open kitchen. Very cool place, superior burgers, and ridiculously low prices!

Pics of us at West Pier Diner The Neebish Island part of the vacation concluded with another tasty home cooked dinner, followed by an “Oh Hell” rematch, which I won (easily). Anne insisted on preparing an early “get away” breakfast for us on Wednesday morning. After goodbyes and thank yous, Suzanna and I were off to catch the first ferry of the day at 6:45 am. From there the ride back to Baltimore was long, but rather uneventful. 865 miles later we pulled up to our front door at 8:30 pm. Our road trip, while over, will be long remembered.

So what is the takeaway from this road trip and the visit that went with it? Fifty to fifty-five years ago Steve and I had a great, solid friendship. It was “Happy Days-esque”! But unfortunately, it was put on hold around 1969 due to geography, war (Steve served in the Army during Viet Nam), and life’s pressures, which we both experienced in our careers. And unfortunately, for no good reason, we never reconnected. So for these 3-1/2 days on Neebish Island, it was truly a wonderful experience to slip right back into our friendship so easily and comfortably, as if there wasn’t a fifty-year interruption. This visit is clearly one of the highlights of my retirement to date. Forgive me if that sounds too “sappy” or “girly”.

I hope you will agree that in life, and in retirement, our family, our friends and our health are by far the most important things we have. Nothing else matters too much at all. That is why reconnecting with Steve is so important to me. I returned home with a new, old friend! We will look forward to getting with Steve and Anne again once they return to Northern Virginia. And as far as vacations go, it had everything: quality one on one time for Suzanna and I, a nice break from life’s routine, a time for relaxation, a visit to a beautiful, interesting place where we had never been, and a wonderful time with great friends. This is how you create a “Lemonade Retirement”.

Art Buchwald was certainly correct when he famously stated:
“the best things in life aren’t things!”

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Ageism: A Roadblock For Boomers Needing To Work

Kristin Armstrong, from Memphis, TN, is the only cyclist in Olympic history to win three gold medals in the same event. In addition, she is the oldest female cycling medalist of all time.

160810162503-kristin-armstrong-son-gold-medal-exlarge-169
Olympic Gold Winner, 2016.

Last Wednesday, August 10th, she won the Gold medal on a grueling, rain-soaked, windy, 18.4-mile cycle course in Rio. Her winning time was 44:26:42, which was 5.5 seconds faster than the Silver winner, Olga Zabelinskaya, from Russia. Kristin turned 43 years old the next day, August 11th! She previously took Gold in this event in Beijing in 2008, as well as in London in 2012. To put this into perspective, Anthony Erwin (USA) won the Gold in the 50-meter freestyle swim event, and deservedly won much acclaim for accomplishing this at the advanced age of 35!

In an interview subsequent to her victory Armstrong said of her competitors, “They are young, they are vibrant, and they recover faster than I do. But I love putting my experience and my mental strength together to compete against them.”

What an uplifting, motivating story! In the workplace, however, there is a strong preference for youthful energy, innovation, and creativity.

Unfortunately, as a result, Baby Boomers desiring to use their “experience and mental strength” to compete in the workplace with Gen-Xers and Millenials do not have the opportunities they seek to do so. They are largely being shut out by rampant ageism. These Boomers often come to the marketplace with experience, maturity, wisdom, and enthusiasm and energy (after all isn’t sixty the new forty?). However, while many Boomers do have all of these positive traits, it is only fair to say that the above description doesn’t describe all Boomers who wish to continue working. Probably an equal number, to be accurate, lack energy and enthusiasm, they look old, and they lack today’s skills, particularly technology and social media skills. It is this latter group that has created the stereotype that the vast majority of employers apply to the Baby Boomer generation as a whole.

This is unfortunate, as millions of Boomers are facing a need to create savings for their retirement years. For those in very challenging financial situations, and there will possibly be millions in this category, this could easily turn into a crisis. It is interesting that opportunities and hiring practices today are significantly improved for most groups who were often discriminated against in the past, including women, minorities, gay and disabled people. But for people over fifty, age discrimination is as prevalent as ever.

Besides a belief, whether true on not, that Boomers do not have the skills and makeup desired by today’s employers, there are other factors keeping them from being hired:

  1. Boomers staying in the workforce block Millenials waiting their turn for opportunities to move up.
  2. Boomers put a strain on profit and loss statements due to higher salaries and health care costs.
  3. It is easier and safer not to even grant an interview to a Boomer. In this litigious world, if he is not hired, he may seek a legal remedy. This is costly, and an unwanted distraction for the employer. The good news for employers though, is that these cases are very difficult to prove, which somewhat diminishes the number of complaints which are filed.
  4. There is an awkwardness that Boomers experience when they enter the latter stage of their working lives. The competition for jobs, and the workforce in general, are much younger. If job opportunities are available they tend to be beneath the skill level of the applicant. And there can be concerns, mostly on the part of employers, about an older person being less likely to take supervision from someone far younger.
  5. In general, far fewer good jobs are available now than there were twenty years or more ago. There are many reasons for this, the chief among them being the high cost to do business in this country. How many companies have moved their entire manufacturing functions to countries such as China, India, Mexico, etc.? Small businesses struggle to survive due to healthcare costs, regulatory costs and the cost of technology. One response increasingly favored by some businesses, large and small, is to outsource entire functions such as Human Resources, Accounting, and Information Services.

Those Boomers who are intent on contending with this situation are well advised to recognize what they are up against.

They need to come up with strategies to get around these issues and at least get interviews. The strategies might include dropping from their resume jobs they held prior to the mid-nineties. Updating hairstyles, hair color, and wardrobes is also advised. Men who are very thin on top might even want to consider the bald look many are embracing. If one is carrying additional weight, they should seriously consider eliminating the excess, as extra pounds tend to age a person beyond their years. These strategies should go a long way in getting one in the door. From there, an extra effort should be made to convey energy and enthusiasm. Finally, demonstrating significant knowledge about the company, its products, and recent history is highly advisable.

Another challenge here is that in most companies hiring decisions are made by two to four people comparing notes and opinions, not just one. This means the Boomer applicant must overcome potential age bias within an entire team of people, a daunting challenge, as it may only take one or two to block an offer. For this reason, networking, networking, and more networking is a far better strategy than going through countless online websites listing hundreds of opportunities. Knowing someone within a company and/or opening the door through a referral or positive reference, gives one the best chance to get an interview leading to a job offer.

This accurately paints a fairly bleak picture for Boomers seeking full-time work. But there are economists and sociologists who do believe that there will be a growing number of businesses who recognize the positive force that Baby Boomers can be. After all, Boomers have knowledge, experience, and wisdom, gained over forty years in the workforce. This asset pool, they reason, will prove to be a highly valuable source of economic good once it is accessed by the business world. But first they must recognize that they have the need. Unfortunately, there is scant evidence of this happening to any great extent at this time.