If you’re looking at retirement as a cure-all, you have the wrong idea.
That’s according to Emily Guy Birken, a personal finance blogger and the author of four finance books, including her latest “End Financial Stress Now: Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Financial Outlook.”
On a recent episode of the So Money podcast, Birken told host and financial expert Farnoosh Torabi that there’s one thing too many people get wrong about retirement: They expect it to happen just as it did for their parents and grandparents.
“That’s something I notice a lot. We have this tendency to have kind of like, binary thought processes about retirement. We think of it like there’s two parts of life, there’s work and then there’s retirement,” she said.
“[I]n retirement, you’ll finally be able to get to do the things that you love to do and everything will be wonderful and perfect and you can go golfing every day and all of that,” Birken said.
“There’s a real problem with that kind of thought process, for one thing, you fall into the trap of assuming it’s going to be ‘retirement charming,’ which is a term that I borrowed from Vicki Robin, who wrote ‘Your Money or Your Life.’ She calls it ‘job charming’ where you’re expecting something to take care of everything in your life. You can finally be happy because you reached retirement charming, and in her case she talks about the job that will do everything for you.
“But just as there’s no prince charming, there’s no retirement charming. You’re not going to suddenly be a different person after you retire; you’re going to have the same problems, the same things that make you sad, the same issues that you have during your life while you’re working.”
Birken says our traditional vision of retirement was formed by watching our parents and grandparents finally kick up their feet and enjoy themselves after 40 or 50 years of hard work. But that notion is being upended.
“The world is changing, the economy is changing, our lifespans are getting longer, so things are going to change and our expectations of retirement need to change with it,” she said.
Ultimately, Birken urges younger generations to begin to find their value and purpose in life well before reaching old age.
“As long as you are willing to roll with those punches and try to aim for that values-driven life at any point, it’s going to be a lot easier to change with those expectations,” she said.
“Because if you go into your working life with the expectation that ‘someday I don’t have to work anymore and I am going to be able to do fun things that I always wanted to do and love,’ you’re going to resent the idea that retirement is no longer an option the way it was for our parents and grandparents.”