My career advice to Mrs. Unhappy Retiree in the People at Work section of the Sunday Inquirer, August 20, 2006, elicited a number of responses: empathies and sympathies. One reader gave an additional advice to Mrs. Unhappy Retiree to have income: go into sales and marketing of tangible and intangible products, such as real estate, insurance, hospitalization, pre-need products, etc.
I have also received mails from five readers who are in their late 50’s and are retireable in 3-5 years. They want to avoid the situation of Mrs. Unhappy Retiree and would like to know how they can prepare themselves for retirement.
To them and to other readers with a similar need, I now address the following advice.
How do you see yourself in retirement? Will you sleep till noon? Watch TV shows and HBO movies until you sleep? See DVDs the whole day? Play with your grandchildren? Play golf or mahjong? Ballroom dance every afternoon? Many people in their middle aged years, harried with work and family responsibilities see such lazy days as their retirement ideal. They want to retire to R&R. After all they say “I’ve earned it!” But those who have retired know that R&R is one thing, boredom is another. And how long will your retirement funds last?
You would have an estimated 50 extra hours a week of free time. Such free time can be most enjoyable if you plan your retirement now. If you retire at age 60, you can still look forward to 15-20 years of life barring illness or accidents. Because of progress in medicine and nutrition, there are as many senior citizens as there are infants born. What you will do during this long period of your life will affect the length and quality of your life, whether you will enjoy peace of mind, joy and fulfillment, and whether you will fill the rest of your lives with meaning and purpose.
Categories of retirees. Retirees fall into three categories: on one extreme are those who didn’t do any planning and left everything to chance just like “Mrs. Unhappy Retiree” to whom I addressed my August 20, 2006 career advice. She sold her home and divided the proceeds into four parts: one part to each of her three children and for herself. She now lives with a married daughter and shares a bedroom with her teenaged granddaughter who resents the arrangement. The other extreme are those who have a rigorous financial plan which they implement to the letter and in the process rob themselves of the joys of retirement. They are controlled by their money, instead of wisely managing their money so that they can enjoy some of their “wants” and “wishes” in life.
The middle category are retirees who have a realistic vision of their retirement life, have a life goal, and a plan to achieve this goal as well as a budget to support their plans. They are still able to live an active and productive life using the skills that they enjoy, and earning in the process. Then, there are those retirees who are able to live a balanced life, this time centered on God, not any more on mammon. Their retirement focuses on preparing themselves for the next 10-15 years, living a life according to God’s purposes. I suggest you read Rick Warren’s best selling book, “Purpose Driven Life.” In fact, living a life according to God’s purposes should begin now, not when you retire because we don’t know when our earthly life will end and eternity begins.
Preparing not only for retirement, but, more importantly, for the end of our earthly life and for life in eternity, will give us a different perspective that will affect our planning and budgeting. It will require that we make time for service to others, if we have not done so yet; use our skills and talents to benefit others, and share our financial resources with the “least important of My brethren, [because what] you did [for them you did] it for me.”(Mt. 25:40) God will surely make us account for how we have used our time, talents and treasures. This kind of spiritual preparation cannot be ignored.
Volunteer service bridges employment with retirement. One of the greatest threats that happen in retirement is a sense of loss of identity, of lack of self-worth, a feeling of uselessness. Volunteerism helps you maintain a sense of accomplishment and involvement. Start to volunteer your talents and skills in service to and for others. Start volunteer work now, on week-ends, in a hospital, clinic, prison, etc., doing thing such as healthcare, printing and clerical work, and any other assistance needed. As you give your time, and put your skills and talents to good use, you are able to meet new people, thereby expanding your world, and to structure your time. I know of a 90- year old woman who lived in our neighborhood who commuted daily (by jeepney and by bus) from her daughter’s home in Parañaque to the Veterans Hospital, rain or shine, to do volunteer work five days a week. She lived on until age 98! It was death from pneumonia that finally stopped her. Committed and dedicated volunteers are always welcome in many service institutions. More important, volunteer work, if done with love, is a way of serving God and His people. It enables us to fulfill one of God’s purposes for our life.
A career in retirement. There are retirees who retire from jobs and are still able to go into careers that have a better fit to their interests, skills and potentials. You have the freedom to do what you really enjoy doing, this time without external pressure from job demands and demanding bosses. You can now follow the dream you have always had, perhaps in your youth. You are able to pursue your enjoyable hobbies and earn from these.
Having a fulfilling career in retirement requires that you plan now, not when you retire. If your company provides a program for employees who reach the mandatory age of retirement, make time to attend it from beginning to end. A holistic retirement program encompasses psychological, spiritual, financial and physical/medical health preparation. Retirees are helped to assess their interests, skills, needs and values; are guided in identifying work/career options in retirement; and in choosing the best option to pursue; in developing a life goal; and making a plan to achieve this goal. It also includes topics on entrepreneurship and investments.
There are two ways of earning during your retirement years: one from self-employment, and two, investing part of your money in putting up a business. Do the work you enjoy doing and earn from it. Be your own boss. Make sure that your business used your skills/expertise, not those of another person whom you hire to manage your business, no matter how loudly they protest their loyalty to you. There have been instances of retired women who succumbed to the plan of their beautician or fashion designer to build and set up a beauty parlor or dress shop only to have the beautician or designer leave, bringing with them the business’ customers.
Look at your hobbies. Do you enjoy planting and caring for ornamental plants— for gardens and indoors? Raising orchids? Creating bonzai? How about woodworking or pottery making? Do you enjoy baking? Sewing? Making beadwork? There are so many possibilities. Observe those that are being sold and know what sells, to whom and where. How can you improve quality and lessen cost? Who are your neighbors and acquaintances in your village or subdivision who need and have money to pay for them. Do you have selling skills? What products and services can you sell? The Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC) has a list of courses to enable retirees to learn new skills or to hone their skills, and a DVD/VCD on how to start a small business from your home. As you wait for retirement, develop and hone your skills and start building your network.
If you have attained expert level in a certain field, you can do consulting work, teach and/or write about your field. This is a good way of sharing your skills and talents, and earn, too! If you want career change, take special training programs on a new field of interest or enroll in formal courses in school. Now is the time to finish (at last!) a never completed undergraduate or graduate course. There are college or graduate courses that impose no age limits. I know of a structural engineer who, at age 59, took up law because of his fascination with legal matters, and of a sales executive who, at 60 years of age, took up a formal course in auto mechanic because he enjoyed tinkering with tools to make vehicles work. He eventually put up an auto repair shop and he has many customers from among his neighbors and friends. Healthy people can continue to learn up to and beyond their 90s. Studies have shown that using and exercising the mind preserves and sharpens it. Retirement provides you with the chance to make up for opportunities missed when the demand for earning a living came between you and your ambition.
Financial planning includes tithing. Know how much is your financial package and plan how you will use your money, remembering that a part of it belongs to God. Be happy when you give back to God a part of your retirement package that your church will use to spread His kingdom on earth. Then ask for God’s guidance in your financial planning.
Financial planning of your savings and your retirement package is very important. Be guided by a competent financial and investment counselor from your bank or from a financial institution.
Don’t forget to input into your financial planning and provision for hospitalization, medical and dental consultation and service, laboratory and surgical procedures, medicines, and the like.
Avoid the “Bahala Na” habit. If you must say “Bahala Na”, connect it with “si Lord on my plan. May He guide me and my spouse to make the right decisions and lead us to what He wants us to do to prepare us for our life in eternity with Him.”
God bless you.