This article first appeared on Forbes.com on February 19, 2014.
If a person’s lifetime was equated to the four seasons of a year, the time following retirement would be the equivalent of autumn. It’s when nature slows down, takes a breath, and appreciates the accomplishments of spring and summer. People generally reach this season in their 60s and 70s, some with trepidation preparing for their remaining years. Many mourn the passage of youth and resent the next generation taking their place in the sun while others, like the poet W.B. Yeats did, choose to “take up life in both hands and care more for the fruit than the flower” in the years following retirement.
Retirement means, for the first time in decades, you have the luxury of worrying only about yourself and possibly your spouse. A new life beckons, pregnant with opportunities and challenges. Unlike your youth, you’ve gained experience and wisdom as well as the confidence that comes from having survived the obstacles and setbacks of starting a family, raising children, and building and maintaining a career. You are free and now face a whole new life full of adventures just waiting to happen.
The End of Accumulation
Youth and middle age are spent chasing dreams, accepting responsibilities, and amassing assets – psychological and physical. If you’ve been diligent and lucky, you’ve accumulated financial wealth in the form of an IRA, 401k, stocks, bonds, and savings. Your employer might have provided additional assets in the form of company stock, a pension, or a profit-sharing account. You may own tangible assets like real estate, art, and collectibles and you’ve also acquired automobiles, furniture, tools, gadgets, heirlooms, and knick-knacks over your lifetime – most of which are rarely used or even remembered.