The Best Chapter: The Perils of Retirement

What could possibly threaten a happy retirement? Boredom? Poverty? Serious pickleball injuries?

In my experience, one of the biggest threats to retirement is employment.

At the end of 2018, I announced to my workplace that I would be entering a period of semi-retirement. Kindly, my colleagues marked this transition with a lovely send-off and thoughtful retirement cards. I entered the New Year bravely and hopefully, full of plans (if not action) related to making this the best chapter of my life.

A couple of months later, a former employer asked if I could take on a contract from home. Then temptation appeared in the form of an intriguing job posting on Indeed. (I had neglected to discontinue my Indeed notifications – first mistake.) As a result, I once again find myself among the ranks of the employed.

Granted, I am now working on my own terms. The contract can be fulfilled from my home office on a part-time basis. And the position I accepted is also part time. Instead of heading north on Macleod Trail on sleepy, traffic-snarled mornings, I will be driving towards the foothills, lending my expertise to a very worthwhile organization in full view of the Rocky Mountains.

I certainly have no regrets, but there is a part of me that wonders how much energy I will have to focus on my favourite f-words: family, friends, fitness, faith, food, freelance writing, and fun. It was my intention to devote time to some neglected areas in my life once an uncluttered schedule stretched before me. Now my life will revolve around work commitments, as it always has.

Perhaps it is the spectre of uncommitted time that strikes fear in many people considering retirement. When our days are circumscribed by a full-time job, we don’t have to face up to our neglected dreams. We don’t have to consider too carefully who we are without the job description and title. It is honestly much easier to continue working after a 40-year career than it is to truly stop.

Then there is the fact that we don’t have a crystal ball to tell us how long we are going to live. If we knew that, we’d know if the money we have set aside for retirement will be enough. And in this culture, it is very difficult to decide that enough is enough. Despite our wealth, we never feel completely secure no matter how much money we have in the bank.

Last year, CIBC released the results of a survey that showed Canadians think they will need to save an average of $756,000 to be ready for retirement. The last time I checked my bank account, I didn’t have $756,000. Perhaps it doesn’t hurt to work for a few more years.

The question remains: How do I make these semi-retirement years inspiring? What does the best chapter look like now?

I think it depends on how I use my free time to confront those f-words: nurturing my family and cooking better food for them, treasuring my friends and making more time for them, getting in better shape, digging deeper into my faith and writing about the whole experience.

As for having fun, I think I’ve got that covered. I’ve always agreed with playwright Noel Coward who famously said, “Work is more fun than fun.”

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