♫ Look at that sky, life’s begun
Nights are warm and the days are young
Come get up my baby
Golden years, gold, whop whop whop
Golden years, gold, whop whop whop…♫
Lyrics, Music and recorded by David Bowie.
So many articles on retirement all deal with the issue of finances and how to plan so you are not caught off guard on the money side. Since that aspect has been explored in detail, this article is going to take us in a totally different direction. As lawyers, we get so much of our personal identity from simply being lawyers that the idea of hanging up our robes and walking out the office wearing the title “Retired Lawyer” causes us panic and a sense of dread. Just *what* would we do with all that….time?
Furthermore there is the fact that as a lawyer, you are accustomed to spending large amounts of time at the office. After retirement, you are now faced with spending the rest of your life with someone that you may have only been seeing on a limited basis for the last while. You now need to start living life together and not in parallel.
Not surprisingly, according to A Satisfying Retirement Blog “[F]or married people over 50, the divorce rate has more than doubled in the last 20 years. Some lawyers report up to 25% of their clients are men and women over 65.”
Accordingly, I think that a good place to start is by asking ourselves “What is the vision that we (you and your spouse or loved one) have for our retirement?” Do you see lots of travel ahead? Spending time with family and grandchildren? Playing sports and being active? Getting to know one another…again?
Another aspect to think about (and sorry for the dark undertones): What would you want people to say at your funeral about you? Have you spent time on the activities for which you wish to be remembered? Now is the best time to start working on the legacy that you wish to leave.
Start a list of all the things that you (and your spouse or loved one) would like to do with the rest of your lives together. Use that to start a conversation on how to plan to check off as many of these as you can together. It is much better knowing that both of you are working in the right direction than to find yourselves at cross-purposes and disappointed about the turn of events in your ‘golden years’.
Retirement can have a very stressful effect on a relationship and when you add in possible health-related issues related to aging and the diminishment of income, you can see that you have the potential for a perfect storm. Like most challenges, dialogue and preparation can help you deal with complications if, and when, they arise. You want to craft a life together that meets each partner’s physical, emotional and other needs and that allows you to take each partner’s feelings, desires and dreams into account.
The other factor to consider is the activities that you plan on enjoying in retirement. You don’t just start doing them on day 1. You need to ease into them by taking the time ..now..to build a base and look forward to getting better at them in retirement. Whether it is golf, tennis, playing a musical instrument, pursuing photography, travel – you need to start enjoying them while you are working in order to really get the benefits of them in retirement. After all you don’t want to look forward to playing the guitar only to find out that your hands are just not working the way you wished at this point in your life.
You also need to establish boundaries – there are still activities that you will want to enjoy with a group of friends that may not include your spouse….and visa versa. Respecting that each of you need and desire this ‘apart’ time makes the situations more bearable when one person goes off to have lunch with the girls or a golf game with the guys.
One final issue for this column (but certainly not the final issue you will face in retirement) is the readjustment of tasks around the home. If one spouse has been working full-time and the other perhaps has been taking a bigger share of the home chores to accommodate, this allotment of chores needs to be adjusted after retirement. Set up ‘blue jobs’ and ‘pink jobs’ (our designation around our home) with expectations of how and when these will be done. To keep the magic happening, if you are the one who does the ‘blue’ jobs, do a pink job occasionally in addition. Believe me, it will be noticed..and appreciated in your golden years. Of further note, “blue” and “pink” jobs depend on your individual circumstance, background and understandings. The underlying understanding is that we support our spouse in whatever ways we can when we are looking up at the sky and saying life has begun.
–David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver, BC.