Retirement!  You’ve been looking forward to it for years, decades even.  It’s going to be spectacular, your life will improve significantly, your marriage and friendships will blossom, you’ll magically get healthier, all your dreams will come true and all your worries will just melt away.  Right?  Well, maybe not.

Surely some of that will come to be.  Many people with more time and more energy on their hands do spend more time focused on family and friends.  Often the absence of stress and fatigue induced by working  results in improved health.  But lets get real here.  Real-life retirement isn’t a silver bullet.  Its not a cure-all and it won’t automatically make anything better.

Yes, yes, I know.  I’m bringing you down.  Sorry, but I believe that the people that fail at retirement, that go back to work, that become depressed, lonely and bored, had unrealistic expectations.  Like the estranged couple that thinks a baby or a threesome will save their marriage, some folks think leaving their job behind will make it all better.  Don’t necessarily count on it.

Like marriage, or anything that’s worthwhile it seems, retirement takes work.  You’re dreams won’t come true on their own.  You might see your blood pressure go down, but I doubt you will lose 50 lbs because you retired.  The daily maintenance of life won’t go away.  Sure you might not have to shave, but your bills won’t pay themselves and the garbage wont’ haul itself to the street.

I found this out myself.  My father-n-law passed away and we’re still dealing with his messy estate.  That, in turn, brought on some mild depression for me and, especially, my wife.  My kids are still a pain in the ass at times.  I still go over budget and have to skimp until my next check arrives.  Life goes on, good and bad.  Retirement didn’t make it all better.  Sure, it makes some things a little easier, but, for instance, I can’t work a little overtime to make up for spending money I didn’t have.

Retirement might be a new lifestyle, but it’s not a new life.  It’s not like popping a quarter into a video game and getting three more lives (if you’re reading this I assume you’re old enough to get what I’m talking about).  Your past troubles are still your troubles.  If you were unhappy before and work wasn’t the sole cause, you’ll still be unhappy.  Retirement might ease things a little, but it won’t cure anything.

Retirement takes work and courage.  It’s can be tough changing your life so drastically, but assuming that everything will just magically get better will make it even tougher.  You need to plan for your retirement.  What are you going to do, what are your dreams and passions, what is it you are retiring to?  If you don’t know, you’d better start thinking about it.  You might even need to reinvent who you are or make drastic changes in your lifestyle.

Maybe I make it sound bad.  I mean, some folks are reading this thinking what is he talking about?  They likely have it together.  They’ve got the money side down, they have a plan for their retirement and they are mentally and spiritually ready.  I’m not talking to them.  I’m talking to the folks that are sick and tired of working, overwhelmed by work and life, but hoping that when they retire it will all go away.

It won’t!  I guess what I am saying is that retiring won’t put your life in order.  Only you can do that.  If things don’t go perfectly, don’t blame being retired.  You have to invest a little energy into it.  You need to plan and adapt.  You need to realize that life will still have it’s ups and downs.  Retirement isn’t a utopia, its just another stage of real-life.

If you plan well and work at it, it can be a great time in your life.  If you neglect it, become complacent, or just plain give up, retirement will likely not be what you had hoped.  You will get out of retirement what you put in.  You might even get more.  Real-life and retirement are not mutually exclusive.  Retirement is real-life.  Remember that, plan for it, tend it well and you’ll do just fine.