Sunday, August 7, 2011


By the time we reach age 60 or so, other people have likely been controlling our decisions for years.

Our parents helped us choose what to wear, how to behave, when to get up and go to bed, even shaped our food choices. As we grew, siblings, grandparents and extended family were added to the control group. Then other forces joined in: teachers, clergymen, friends, bosses and spouses, perhaps our own children.

The list of influences continued to grow as we strived to meet their demands. As a result, control of our own lives slipped further away. Whether or not we were aware of it, we spent decades being impacted by these outside constraints.

Once we reach retirement, this pattern undergoes a dramatic shift.

You resume control over your own life. Of course, some restrictions will remain in place. But the majority of control will be yours, perhaps for the first time ever. This realization can be intimidating. How are we supposed to figure out what we are going to do?

Call this new phase independence, freedom or self-reliance. Charting your own course is no small feat. Being responsible for your own future can be wonderful -- and frightening.

Some people find that they are simply not up to making decisions regarding their own lives. As a result, some choose to postpone retirement indefinitely. Perhaps they have relinquished the ability to make their own decisions for so long, they are unsure of their ability to make choices.

But many people will rejoice at the mere prospect.

During conversations about retirement, some people make comments such as, "Oh, that's not for a couple of years. I haven't even thought about that yet."

People underestimate the impact that retirement will have on their lives. I don't mean the financial impact, although that is certainly a consideration. I mean the impact of not having to answer to the clock, to drudge at a job they may hate.

You will be free to do what you want to do.

Be aware that the sheer novelty of freedom will wear off. Children may wait breathlessly for summer vacation, shrieking with joy at the final day of class. However, two weeks later they are whining about not having anything to do.

Even if the prospect of retirement seems far away, begin thinking about it occasionally. What would you like to do with your time? What interests you? Do you have a hobby that is of great interest? What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?

You need to think what course you would like to follow so that you can design a plan.

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