I have been reading a lot about life after retirement. How our boomer generation is expected to live longer. That we could look forward to 20 or 30 more years after reaching the typical retirement age of 65. There is a large chunk of our age group who will not enter full retirement at 65. Those of us who have been involuntarily unemployed before even reaching retirement age. I get a kick out of this euphemism involuntarily unemployed. I have seen it used in a couple of articles I have read recently. It is another way of saying your job was eliminated, terminated or you were laid off unexpectedly. This happens to more and more older people nowadays before they get the chance to reach retirement age. They find themselves adrift and scrambling to find another job to get them to retirement. The usual scenario is that they remain unemployed for an extended period and then if they find another job it is at a much lower pay scale or they can only find part-time or temp work. So this makes it hard to prepare financially for retirement at the age of 65 and people then find themselves needing to work for more years.
If you are lucky enough to find yourself voluntarily unemployed or retired you need to worry about what to do with yourself for 20 or 30 years. That is assuming you are lucky to live that long. So another topic that is popular now is what you should do with yourself for those 20 or 30 years. Although you may have looked forward to having nothing to do it can end up being boring and depressing we are told. You could find yourself experiencing “retirement burnout.” So there are blogs and articles that give us advice about that.
For those of us who don’t want to retire there can be encore careers. There is a whole industry out there of advice books, blogs and career counselors that are all too willing to advice us on what to do and how to do it. They tell us we can happily transition into encore careers of great fulfillment and purpose.
Whether you are voluntarily or involuntarily unemployed, you are making a major transition. You are experiencing a loss. A loss of what you thought your last working years before retirement would look like if you were involuntarily unemployed and a loss of your identity as a person with a full-time job or career even if you voluntarily retired. Then there is a period of being adrift emotionally as you try to adjust to the change that has happened. You need to let go of your expectations and past identity before you can form a new one and embrace your new life. Or figure out what you are going to do with yourself. It is a transition we must all go through anytime we experience change that is expected or unexpected according to William Bridges who has written about and had a whole career in the subject of Transitions. He describes the process as occurring in 3 stages. First: Disengagement or letting go of the old, Second: the Neutral Zone, which is where I am now, (Neutral Zone reminds me of The Twilight Zone), Third: the New Beginning where you know where you’re going.
I have found the Letting Go Stage to be a bit sticky. I thought I had let go of my feelings about losing my job and let go of my feelings about not getting re-established in a teaching career. But recently, I found I am still working on letting go or working through the feelings. Bridges says you have to do this before you can go on to the next steps.
I have been in the middle of this transition for the past 6 years. I am one of those who was involuntarily unemployed (trying saying that real fast 5 times) and then unable to find full-time employment again even after getting a teaching credential in an effort to transition into another job sector. I have been working part-time since the age of 60. It has been a journey from losing my job, to getting my credential, to trying to find full-time employment as a teacher, to working as a substitute teacher and not liking it, to looking into healthcare jobs again, and now working as a private tutor. I also volunteer tutor at a local adult school literacy center.
I am now at the place where I am thinking about what the next stage of my life might look like, the New Beginning. I no longer want to devote all my energy to a full-time job even though it would give me a better income. I have weighed how much energy I have and am willing to give to a traditional full-time job compared to how important it is to me to have flexibility and free time to do whatever else I want to do. I don’t think I even have the energy for a full-time job anymore. At least not the kind of job that is 40+ hours a week with 2 weeks off a year for good behavior. I find at the present time I enjoy having a flexible work schedule.
I am not done with this transition period yet though. I know that what I am doing now is an interim thing or only part of what I want to be doing. I feel I do need more. Not just filling my time with busy work either. I want to be engaged in something else. So now to find out what that else is going to be.