I was searching for the sunniest places to live, and inevitably I got onto some retirement websites, as apparently retirees are looking for the same thing I am: sunshine and reasonable cost of living.
Over at U.S. News and World Report, I read an article titled "7 Misconceptions About Retired Life," and it hit me in a way that said: you know these things, Amy, in the back of your mind, but you haven't fully realized them yet.
Staff writer Emily Brandon argues, essentially, that retirement isn't a whole lot different from life pre-retirement unless it's actually a little bit worse.
I know. Soothing thoughts for a Sunday morning.
Basically, we have this vision of life in retirement. The vision includes world travel, healthier living based on more exercise, less stress and quieter meals, more money from all of those investments we made years back, better relationships from all the time we'll have to invest in people, good health (the vision we see in medication ads on TV while we watch the evening news) and the sense that it was all our choice.
The reality is a bit different, apparently. The data shows a different story.
According to the article, many retirees have less money in retirement than they did during their working years, so their standard of living actually decreases.
The same is true with health, and the combination of the two (declining health and financial wealth) is a double-whammy.
The relationships we all hope will improve in retirement actually stay the same. According to Brandon, "Most retirees say their relationship with family members (61 percent) and their spouse (62 percent) stayed the same in retirement."
Retirees also reported less travel than they'd hoped for (cost was a factor as was health), and they experience the same levels of stress as during their working years. Finally, I guess retirement doesn't magically make you want to work out; exercise levels also stayed the same.
The one surprising statistic about retirement is just how many retirees didn't retire on their own terms.
I have this vision of one day saying: okay, time's up. I'm done. Ready to retire. I'm putting in my two-week notice and calling it a day.
The truth is a bit sobering. Brandon writes, "We like to think that we will be able to retire when we hit a certain age or savings goal. Most current workers (60 percent) expect to retire at age 65 or later, often because they need the money or health benefits from their job, but also because they enjoy working and want to make a difference. But only about a quarter (26 percent) of retirees held onto their jobs that long."
The reasons for this early retirement include layoffs, buyouts, health problems and other unplanned-for circumstances.
As I've gotten older, I've seen a lot of this play out as true for the people I've seen retire. It's never quite as they think it will be, and often it's worse. I know people who've been laid off at older ages and been unable to find more work. I've seen family circumstances or investments to awry, sapping families of entire retirement savings accounts, leaving Social Security as the safety net. I've seen illness rob people of their final twenty, golden years.
And I've seen a lot of people transition into retirement and lead pretty much the same lives then as they did before they retired. They don't suddenly become more involved with people. In fact, the often become less involved. They don't suddenly start working out. They often don't travel much, if at all, and when they do it's not a hiking trip through Italy; it's a trip to see the grandkids.
This isn't to say these retirements aren't satisfying or happy. Often, even with financial limitations and health problems, retirees are thrilled to be off the job, so to speak, and spending their days as they wish - even if that means watching old Western reruns and an afternoon nap.
But it all just makes me think: what am I putting off today because I think I'll be able to do it in retirement? If the life I lead then is pretty much an extension of the life I'm leading now, how do I feel about the life I'm leading now?
I definitely see myself traveling more in retirement, in large part because I won't have kids, which make travel more expensive and scheduling difficult. But will there just be some other hitch in retirement that makes me stay home for another reason? Do I need to get out there now, kids in tow, because in another twenty years, I may not have the chance?
I see myself spending more time with my husband in retirement, but the truth is there's time I could spend with him now that I'm not. I'm on my laptop or working out or reading a book in another room.
I envision myself spending time with my siblings in retirement, but the truth is that if I don't make an effort to live closer to them (they all live in the Pacific Northwest...I know), that won't happen either.
I actually envision myself working in retirement, which I don't do now (outside of the home) because of my husband's schedule and our frequent moves. The truth is, I could work now. It would be a little uncomfortable but not impossible.
I think, whether it's retirement or when the kids grow up or when we get a pay raise or whatever the tomorrow scenario is, we're all waiting on something before we live fully right now.
What if we didn't wait?
I heard someone once say: we're all living the lives we want to be living.
If that's true, are you living the life you really want? Or are you waiting for something to change?
I hope everyone is having a lovely Sunday. Rain here today and all day yesterday. You know I'm just skipping around the house in joy.