February 23, 2014 by Jean
It’s probably not surprising, given my academic training, that my response to any approaching major life event is an extensive program of reading. That’s as true of retirement as of any other major change in my life; I’ve been reading about retirement for at least the past five years. My early reading was primarily scholarly research by sociologists and gerontologists, followed by work on retirement by psychologists. More recently, I’ve broadened my reading to include memoirs and other accounts of retirement written for a more general audience. One of these books was Mary Lloyd’s Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love (Hankfritz Press, 2009).
Lloyd’s book is part cautionary tale, part practical guide, and part workbook. In Chapter 1, she tells us that “My qualifications for writing this book rest on the monumental mess I’ve made of this process myself.” (p. 23) She goes on to explain that she “left work much too early (age 47) for noble reasons and with little planning” (p. 23) and that she fell into a serious depression after floundering for several years. Lloyd wants to spare others the same pain by sharing what she has learned from her mistakes.
Lloyd argues that the fundamental mistake people make in planning for retirement is to think about it as an ending – the ending of work and a regular paycheck – rather than as a new beginning:
‘Retirement’ is the wrong word altogether. ‘Retire’ per good old Webster’s is ‘to withdraw from action or danger….’
The point at which you are well enough off to give up a regular job and rely on the sources of income you’ve secured that don’t require your hours and days is not really ‘retirement.’ It’s just another graduation – like high school and college. Congratulations! You have met all the requirements to be allowed to move on to the next level of life. Like all graduations, this involves a commencement. A beginning. (pp. 14-15)
The ‘real prize’ of retirement, Lloyd explains, ‘is not the leisure. It’s the chance to begin again in a direction that reflects who you’ve become.’ (p. 10)
Lloyd assumes that you’re not the same person you were when you set off on a particular career path decades ago; you’ve grown and changed since then. Planning for a happy retirement involves getting in touch with the person you’ve become, and that’s what this book is all about. It’s designed to lead you through a process of self-discovery, and each chapter includes a set of workbook exercises designed with that purpose in mind. Some chapters have two versions of the exercises, one for those who have already retired and one for those who are contemplating retirement. Although the purpose of these exercises is serious, Lloyd recommends approaching them in a spirit of lightheartedness that will leave you more open to discovery. I didn’t do every exercise in every chapter, but I did most of them; and they did help me to discover new things about myself and to more clearly articulate things I already knew.
In the end, Lloyd tells us, planning for retirement is really about figuring out the answers to three questions:
What do I want more of in my life?
What do I want less of in my life?
How do I make that happen?
Mary Lloyd’s Supercharged Retirement has a lot to offer retirees and those who are contemplating retirement by helping them to answer these questions for themselves.